Nutritionists are beginning to take notice of the special properties of a new super fruit, the lingonberry, a tart red berry slightly smaller than the cranberry, known to contain high levels of antioxidants. Now, research has shown that a diet involving lingonberry juice can help protect against kidney failure.
Already cultivated as a cash crop in Scandinavia, wild lingonberries can be found across northern British Columbia, Manitoba and Newfoundland and Labrador but have yet to see widescale commercial harvest in Canada.
“[The] lingonberry is now at the point that blueberries were at 20 years ago. We need to do the science to understand what’s in there; what are the health properties,” says Dr. Kelly Ross of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada who was not involved in the new study, to Global News.
In Sweden, home furnishing giant IKEA makes drinks syrups and jams from lingonberries for exportation around the world, and just recently, archeologists at the University of Pennsylvania found evidence of the lingonberry being used in the making of an alcoholic grog by groups of people living in Scandinavia as far back as 1500 to 1300 BCE.
In Canada, research in 2015 showed that the lingonberries grown in northern Manitoba actually contain the highest levels of antioxidants.
“We call them moss berries here. People make juice out of them and with the pulp they make jam,” said Del Hildebrandt, a lingonberry harvester from Lynn Lake, Manitoba, to the Winnipeg Free Press. “As long as it’s a good year, you can pick buckets and buckets of them. The (berries) are easy to pick and easy to store,” said Hildebrandt.
The benefits of antioxidants are well known, primarily as they protect against damage caused by free radicals through a bodily process known as oxidative stress. Free radicals are unstable molecules and atoms produced by oxidation which can interact with and damage the body’s cells as well as cellular DNA, causing tissue damage and helping to bring about aging, cancer and other diseases. Antioxidants combat this process by interacting with free radicals before they can do their damage.
Conducted by researchers at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, the new study focussed on a condition known as ischemia-reperfusion (IR) in the kidneys, a disruption caused by the sudden loss of blood flow and subsequent return of blood to the kidneys, which can lead to acute kidney failure. The study involved giving to rats 1 mL of lingonberry juice daily for three weeks and then subjecting the rats to kidney IR to see how their bodies responded.
Cellular analysis of the rats’ kidneys post-IR found that the lingonberry juice helped protect against inflammation commonly associated with IR. “This study shows, for the first time, that daily supplementation with lingonberry juice may protect against loss of kidney function induced by ischemia-reperfusion injury by modulating JNK signaling and inhibiting the subsequent inflammatory response,” say the study’s authors.
The new study was published in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture.