Review of the health effects of berries and their phytochemicals on the digestive and immune systems

Nutr Rev. 2018 Jan 1;76(1):29-46. doi: 10.1093/nutrit/nux039.


Berries are generally considered beneficial to health. This health-promoting potential has mainly been ascribed to berries' phytochemical and vitamin content, and little attention has been paid to the potential benefits of berries for the digestive tract, despite this being the first point of contact. In vivo studies that described the health effects of berries on individual parts of the digestive tract (ie, the mouth, esophagus, stomach, small and large intestine, microbiome, and immune system) were reviewed. Immune effects were included because a large part of the immune system is located in the intestine. Beneficial health effects were mainly observed for whole berry extracts, not individual berry components. These effects ranged from support of the immune system and beneficial microbiota to reduction in the number and size of premalignant and malignant lesions. These results demonstrate the potency of berries and suggest berries can serve as a strong adjuvant to established treatments or therapies for a variety of gastrointestinal and immune-related illnesses.

Keywords: berry; digestive system; immune system; in vivo; phytochemicals.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Diet
  • Digestive System Physiological Phenomena / drug effects*
  • Fruit*
  • Humans
  • Immune System* / drug effects
  • Immune System* / physiology
  • Phytochemicals*


  • Phytochemicals