Bilberry ingestion improves disease activity in mild to moderate ulcerative colitis - an open pilot study

J Crohns Colitis. 2013 May;7(4):271-9. doi: 10.1016/j.crohns.2012.07.010. Epub 2012 Aug 9.


Background and aims: A significant fraction of patients with ulcerative colitis (UC) is not sufficiently controlled with conventional therapy or suffers from therapy related side effects. Anthocyanins, highly abundant in bilberries (Vaccinium myrtillus), were shown to have antioxidative and anti-inflammatory effects. We aimed to explore the therapeutic potential of bilberries in active UC.

Methods: In an open pilot trial with a total follow-up of 9 weeks the effect of a daily standardized anthocyanin-rich bilberry preparation was tested in 13 patients with mild to moderate UC. Clinical, biochemical, endoscopic and histologic parameters were assessed.

Results: At the end of the 6 week treatment interval 63.4% of patients achieved remission, the primary endpoint, while 90.9% of patients showed a response. In all patients a decrease in total Mayo score was detected (mean: 6.5 and 3.6 at screening and week 7, respectively; p<0.001). Fecal calprotectin levels significantly decreased during the treatment phase (baseline: mean 778 μg/g, range 192-1790 μg/g; end of treatment: mean 305 μg/g, range <30-1586 μg/g; p=0.049), including 4 patients achieving undetectable levels at end of treatment. A decrease in endoscopic Mayo score and histologic Riley index confirmed the beneficial effect. However, an increase of calprotectin levels and disease activity was observed after cessation of bilberry intake. No serious adverse events were observed.

Conclusions: This is the first report on the promising therapeutic potential of a standardized anthocyanin-rich bilberry preparation in UC in humans. These results clearly indicate a therapeutic potential of bilberries in UC. Further studies on mechanisms and randomized clinical trials are warranted.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anthocyanins / therapeutic use*
  • Antioxidants / therapeutic use*
  • Colitis, Ulcerative / drug therapy*
  • Colitis, Ulcerative / pathology
  • Drug Administration Schedule
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Fruit*
  • Humans
  • Induction Chemotherapy
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Compliance / statistics & numerical data
  • Patient Satisfaction / statistics & numerical data
  • Phytotherapy*
  • Pilot Projects
  • Prospective Studies
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Sigmoidoscopy
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Vaccinium myrtillus*
  • Young Adult


  • Anthocyanins
  • Antioxidants