Blueberry Improves the Therapeutic Effect of Etanercept on Patients with Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis: Phase III Study

Tohoku J Exp Med. 2015 Nov;237(3):183-91. doi: 10.1620/tjem.237.183.


Juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) is the most common arthritis in the adolescents under the age of 16. Etanercept, an inhibitor of tumor necrosis factor, is often used to treat JIA despite its significant side effects. Homeopathic remedies, such as blueberries, have anti-inflammatory properties with fewer unwanted effects and should be considered as a primary treatment. We aimed to explore the efficacy and safety of combination therapy of blueberry and etanercept for JIA. Two hundred and one JIA patients were selected, and randomly and evenly assigned to three groups: ETA (50 mg of etanercept twice weekly), ETABJ (matched etanercept and 50 ml blueberry juice daily) and ETAPJ (matched etanercept and placebo juice). The severity of JIA was measured using American College of Rheumatology scales (ACR) 20, 50 and 70. The levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines, interleukin-1 (IL1) alpha and IL1 beta, and interleukin-1 receptor antagonist (IL1RA) were measured by qRT-PCR and ELISA. After a 6-month follow-up, the ACR20, ACR50 and ACR70 in an ETABJ group were higher than those in other two groups (P < 0.05), suggesting clinically meaningful improvement in JIA. Meanwhile, the symptoms and side effects were reduced significantly or absent in an ETABJ group, including mental diseases, retrobulbar optic neuritis, gaining weight, infection, cutaneous vasculitis, diarrhea, uveitis and pancytopenia. Blueberries reduced the levels of IL1 alpha and beta, and increased the level of IL1RA. Thus, a combination therapy of blueberry and etanercept can reduce the severity of JIA and should be developed as a new method for JIA therapy.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial, Phase III
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Arthritis, Juvenile / blood
  • Arthritis, Juvenile / drug therapy*
  • Arthritis, Juvenile / genetics
  • Blueberry Plants / chemistry*
  • Etanercept / adverse effects
  • Etanercept / therapeutic use*
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / blood
  • Inflammation / genetics
  • Male
  • Phytotherapy
  • Plant Extracts / therapeutic use*
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Plant Extracts
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Etanercept