Blueberry proanthocyanidins and anthocyanins improve metabolic health through a gut microbiota-dependent mechanism in diet-induced obese mice

Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2020 Jun 1;318(6):E965-E980. doi: 10.1152/ajpendo.00560.2019. Epub 2020 Mar 31.


Blueberry consumption can prevent obesity-linked metabolic diseases, and it has been proposed that the polyphenol content of blueberries may contribute to these effects. Polyphenols have been shown to favorably impact metabolic health, but the role of specific polyphenol classes and whether the gut microbiota is linked to these effects remain unclear. We aimed to evaluate the impact of whole blueberry powder and blueberry polyphenols on the development of obesity and insulin resistance and to determine the potential role of gut microbes in these effects by using fecal microbiota transplantation (FMT). Sixty-eight C57BL/6 male mice were assigned to one of the following diets for 12 wk: balanced diet (Chow); high-fat, high-sucrose diet (HFHS); or HFHS supplemented with whole blueberry powder (BB), anthocyanidin (ANT)-rich extract, or proanthocyanidin (PAC)-rich extract. After 8 wk, mice were housed in metabolic cages, and an oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT) was performed. Sixty germ-free mice fed HFHS diet received FMT from one of the above groups biweekly for 8 wk, followed by an OGTT. PAC-treated mice were leaner than HFHS controls although they had the same energy intake and were more physically active. This observation was reproduced in germ-free mice receiving FMT from PAC-treated mice. PAC- and ANT-treated mice showed improved insulin responses during OGTT, and this finding was also reproduced in germ-free mice following FMT. These results show that blueberry PAC and ANT polyphenols can reduce diet-induced body weight and improve insulin sensitivity and that at least part of these beneficial effects are explained by modulation of the gut microbiota.

Keywords: blueberry; fecal microbiota transplant; insulin resistance; obesity; polyphenols.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anthocyanins / pharmacology*
  • Blueberry Plants*
  • Body Weight / drug effects
  • Diet, High-Fat
  • Dietary Sucrose
  • Fecal Microbiota Transplantation
  • Fruit*
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome / drug effects*
  • Glucose Tolerance Test
  • Insulin Resistance*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Obesity / metabolism*
  • Obesity / microbiology
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology*
  • Proanthocyanidins / pharmacology*


  • Anthocyanins
  • Dietary Sucrose
  • Plant Extracts
  • Proanthocyanidins

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