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Lehman Professor Identifies 'Extreme Super Fruit': Neotropical Blueberries

May 11, 2011

Cavendishia Grandifolia
Photo credit: Paola Pedraza-Peņalosa, Ph.D.

Blueberries grown in North America have long been touted as a "superfruit" that's excellent for your health, but a Lehman professor and his research team have discovered that their little-known cousins have far greater nutritional benefits. In fact, he calls them "extreme superfruits." These "neotropical" blueberries grow wild in places like Mexico and Central and South America, and, according to Lehman Professor Edward Kennelly (Biological Sciences), they are far more potent than most blueberries sold in U.S. supermarkets.

The team's research, published earlier this month in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, shows that the neotropical berries exhibit "significantly higher" antioxidants that help prevent diseases like cancer, cardiovascular disease, and Alzhiemer's disease. Dr. Kennelly and his coauthors studied two of the more than 600 species—Cavendishia grandifolia and Anthopterus wardii—and found they had two to four times more antioxidant capacity than conventional blueberries.

"We consider these two species of neotropical blueberries to be extreme super fruits with great potential to benefit human health," he says. He adds that, although he has not seen them sold commercially to date in the U.S., he suspects that, as interest grows, it's likely they will begin appearing in U.S. markets. He first learned of the fruit through a partnership between Lehman and the New York Botanical Garden, which has long cultivated these species.

A member of the Lehman faculty since 1998, Dr. Kennelly is an expert on medicinal plants and focuses on understanding both their chemistry and their helpful effects for humans. His research is funded in part by the National Institutes of Health.

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