Bilberries (Vaccinium myrtillus L.) have been reported to hold a plentitude of health-promoting properties beyond basic nutrition, mainly attributed to their anthocyanin content and antioxidant activity. In this article, we built the phytochemical profile of three wild bilberry fruit extract formulations (aqueous, methanolic, and hydro-methanolic) using UHPLC-ESI-MS/MS putative analysis, identifying 88 individual phytochemicals, mainly flavonoids (total content 8.41 ± 0.11 mg QE/g dw), free amino acids, polyphenols (total content 21.68 ± 0.19 mg GAE/g dw), carboxylic acids, and vitamins. Furthermore, the antioxidant activity of the extract was assessed, reaching 78.03 ± 0.16% DPPH free radical scavenging activity, comparable to literature values determined for bilberry extracts of other origin. Due to the increased prevalence of metabolic syndrome and based on the reviewed benefits of bilberries, we tested the most potent formulation of our bilberry extracts in this biological context. The in vivo rescue effect of a bilberry extract supplemented diet on Drosophila melanogaster was assessed by monitoring biochemical and genomic markers. Hemolymph trehalose levels were halved upon addition of 3% hydro-methanolic bilberry extract to a high-sugar (1.5 M sucrose) diet, as compared to the non-supplemented high-sugar diet. Noteworthy, the rescue seen for flies kept on the bilberry extract supplemented high-sugar diet appeared to parallel the trehalose levels observed in the case of the control diet (50 mM sucrose) flies. Moreover, next to the trehalose-lowering type of in vivo effects, other gene expression related rescues were also detected for genes such as InR, Akh, AstA, AstC, Irk, Npc2g, and CCHa2 upon supplementation of the high-sugar diet with our hydro-methanolic bilberry fruit extract. Our findings suggest that such a bilberry fruit extract could generate physiological and genomic type of compensatory mechanisms so that further translational approaches would advance the understanding of some human specific pathological conditions.
Keywords: Drosophila melanogaster; antioxidant activity; bilberry; flavonoid; hemolymph trehalose; insulin resistance; metabolic syndrome; phytochemical; polyphenol.