Vaccinium myrtillus (bilberry) leaf is traditionally used in southeastern Europe for the treatment of diabetes. In the present study, the ability of bilberry leaf extracts to inhibit carbohydrate-hydrolyzing enzymes and restore glutathione concentration in Hep G2 cells subjected to glucose-induced oxidative stress was investigated. A comprehensive analysis of the antioxidant activity of two bilberry leaf extracts was performed. The aqueous extract showed excellent total antioxidant and chelating activity. Its antioxidant activity in the β-carotene-linoleic acid assay was very good, reaching the activity of the antioxidant standard BHA (93.4 ± 2.3% vs. 95.1 ± 2.4%, respectively). The hydroethanolic extract (ethanol/H₂O, 8:2, v/v), on the other hand, was a better radical scavenger and Fe2+ reducing agent. Furthermore, the aqueous extract was able to efficiently increase glutathione concentration in Hep G2 cells subjected to glucose-induced oxidative stress and restore it to the levels observed in non-hyperglycaemic cells. The hydroethanolic extract strongly inhibited α-glucosidase, with the IC50 statistically equal to the antidiabetic drug acarbose (0.29 ± 0.02 mg/mL vs. 0.50 ± 0.01 mg/mL, respectively). Phytochemical analysis revealed the presence of quercetin and kaemferol derivatives, as well as chlorogenic and p-coumaric acid. The study results indicate that V. myrtillus leaf may have promising properties as a supporting therapy for diabetes.
Keywords: Vaccinium myrtillus; antioxidant activity; glutathione; polyphenol; α-glucosidase inhibition.