Blueberries and Skin Conditions

Christian Riemer

Blueberries have increased in popularity over the last couple of decades as a part of the Western world diet  - and for not only one, but a couple of good reasons. Turns out blueberries, or rather wild blueberries, can benefit inflammatory skin conditions like psoriasis and even acne.

The reason behind this is found in the goodies they contain. Wild blueberries contain compounds such as vitamin C and K, manganese and especially flavonoids. These ingredients work as antioxidants and are capable of improving underlying mechanisms affecting various skin conditions.

But it’s important to understand the difference between wild and cultivated blueberries for a bit. The ones you get from the supermarket won’t be as beneficial for your skin.

The difference between wild and cultivated blueberries

Wild blueberries are lowbush and not planted, unlike their farmed highbush cousins. Instead, they spread primarily on underground runners which gives rise to new shoots and stems. This distinct growth and variation within wild blueberries impact the berries' size and shape, alongside their molecular composition, causing the wild berries to have a more intense, sweet and tangy taste compared to the cultivated ones. Importantly, the wild type contains a higher amount of the beneficial ingredient anthocyanin, which belongs to the group of flavonoids which gives the berries their blue colour.

To distinguish between cultivated and wild blueberries, you can just look for the blue colour all through the berry - the cultivated ones will be white in the middle compared to the wild berries which are blue all the way through.

Difference wild and cultivated blueberries

The effect of blueberries on skin conditions

The cells in our body are constantly waging a battle against free radicals – unstable oxygen molecules (ROS- reactive oxygen species) associated with worsening skin conditions through a mechanism called oxidative stress. Oxidative stress has been shown to induce cell growth and is furthermore shown capable of inhibiting beneficial anti-inflammatory responses required for an optimally functioning skin. 

This means, that you should look into reducing the ROS, as by doing so the cell growth will decrease and the inflammatory response will increase, resulting in improved skin for conditions like psoriasis and acne. 

This is where the wild blueberries come in. Anthocyanin found in high amounts in wild blueberries can help reduce the amount of ROS!

How many blueberries should I eat then?

A study elucidating the effect of wild blueberries showed that 100g of fresh berries significantly increase the serum antioxidant profile, in other words meaning that this amount of berries solely resulted in an effect when it comes to reducing ROS.  

As cultivated blueberries do not have the same concentrations of beneficial ingredients, a bigger amount should be consumed to have a beneficial effect. However, the antioxidant levels depend on influence factors like soil and age and it is difficult to give a precise recommendation.