Mechanistic insights into the vascular effects of blueberries: Evidence from recent studies

Mol Nutr Food Res. 2017 Jun;61(6). doi: 10.1002/mnfr.201600271. Epub 2016 Oct 10.


Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. Dietary habits influence a variety of cardiovascular complications such as peripheral artery disease, heart failure, and kidney disease. We along with others have previously reported the cardiovascular beneficial effects of dietary flavonoids. Anthocyanins, one class of flavonoids widely available in berries, have recently drawn wide scientific attention because of their diverse health benefits. Epidemiological, clinical, and animal studies indicate that blueberry anthocyanins exert protection against cardiovascular complications by acting on multiple targets in the vascular system. These include activating endothelial nitric oxide synthase signaling, reducing oxidative stress, improving inflammatory pathways, and ameliorating dyslipidemia. Anthocyanins are extensively metabolized in humans suggesting that their vascular benefits are likely mediated by their circulating metabolites. However, the bioactivities of blueberry metabolites are unknown. Evaluating the bioactivities of metabolites, analyzing their structure-activity relationship, and well-designed human trials are needed to understand the potential vascular effects of blueberries and their metabolites. Understanding the vascular effects will provide a solid scientific foundation to recommend blueberries to improve vascular health. This review highlights the recent developments in the understanding of the vascular effects of blueberries with special emphasis on the molecular mechanisms involved.

Keywords: Anthocyanins; Blueberries; Dyslipidemia; Endothelium; Inflammation; Nitric oxide; Oxidative stress; Vascular effects.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anthocyanins / pharmacokinetics
  • Antioxidants / pharmacokinetics
  • Blueberry Plants / chemistry*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / prevention & control*
  • Cardiovascular System / drug effects
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Endothelium, Vascular / drug effects
  • Flavonoids / pharmacokinetics
  • Fruit / chemistry*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Signal Transduction
  • Structure-Activity Relationship


  • Anthocyanins
  • Antioxidants
  • Flavonoids