Blueberries speed up muscle recovery, NZ researchers find
The study, published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, was headed up by Massey School of Sport and Exercise head associate professor Steve Stannard, involving input from his university colleagues and Plant & Food Research.
The researchers tested 10 female participants were given blueberry smoothies before, during, and for two days after exercise strength tests, and blood tests were taken to monitor the leg’s recovery.
“We put the study participants on a Biodex machine and had them work the thigh of one leg very hard to damage the muscle,” said Stannard.
“They did 300 maximal eccentric contractions, which causes micro-trauma to the muscle’s fibres.”
He said the study was repeated again several weeks later with smoothies that did not contain blueberries.
The comparative blood tests showed that while the blueberry smoothies had a similar total antioxidant intake to the second control smoothie, they produced a higher level of antioxidant defense in the blood.
Stannard said blueberry consumption was associated with improved recovery rates within the first 36 hours for one specific measure of muscle performance.
He added it was still unclear why the blueberries had this effect, but “it is probably linked to the superior anthocyanin content of the New Zealand blueberry fruit interacting with and assisting the body’s natural antioxidant mechanisms”.
“For me the attraction of this study is that we’re using a real food – it’s not a pill or a supplement, it’s fruit, grown in New Zealand and available at any shop.”
Plant & Food Research scientist Dr Roger Hurst was upbeat about the results, and the partnership with Massey to research the benefits of blueberries for exercise.
“There is a huge amount of research still to be done. But this work is giving a wonderful indicator and we expect these exciting findings to further boost the desirability of New Zealand blueberries.”