Nature’s coolest ingredient can limit fat gain, make you insulin sensitive, control blood sugar, and more.
Mother Nature creates delicious foods full of ingredients that give us long lives free from disease and many of the infirmities of aging. But then, in a perverse act of peevishness, she makes these ingredients largely unavailable to us.
I’m talking about the class of chemicals known as polyphenols. Many have powerful health effects but, unfortunately, they aren’t absorbed very well. Many just pass through the digestive system and into the sewage system.
For example, blueberries and blackberries contain a particularly powerful (and elusive) branch of polyphenols known as anthocyanins. Harnessing their power conveys an impressive list of beneficial effects, from limiting abdominal obesity to mimicking the life-extending capabilities of calorie-restriction diets. Getting at these anthocyanins, though, is hard unless you ingest them with the milk-protein casein or take the supplement route.
You know casein, right? It’s generally the best muscle-building protein, and it’s the basis of the best protein powders. If, however, you were to examine a high-quality casein through an electron microscope, you’d likely see peptides (short chains of amino acids) joined together in amorphous but stable agglomerates known as micelles.
For muscle-building, casein rich in micelles is particularly desirable because micellar casein is the only protein shown in lab studies to be anti-catabolic (Boire, 1997). So not only does it increase protein synthesis, it helps prevent muscle breakdown during and after intense exercise.
But there’s something else particularly beneficial about these micelle agglomerates – their internal structure is porous. Look inside them and you see channels a tad bigger than 5 nanometers. Look further and you see inner cavities ranging in size from 20 to 30 nanometers. These channels and cavities are of particular interest to us when it comes to blueberry anthocyanins (and probably other polyphenols).
The channels and cavities provide “safe passage” to anthocyanins and their metabolites, allowing them to bypass the stomach lining and enter the bloodstream where they can work their magic to make you healthier.
This isn’t just theory, either. Scientists recently combined blueberries with casein and, after feeding the mixture to rats, found that anthocyanins and their metabolites’ absorption increased from 1.5 to 10.1 times, depending on the specific anthocyanin or metabolite. There’s no reason to think it doesn’t work with humans, too.
We all know that blueberries are “good for us,” but it’s sometimes worth digging into what they can do. Their superpowers come from several anthocyanins and metabolites, but the one most interesting to humans is cyanidin-3-glucoside, or C3G.
This particular anthocyanin, responsible for much of the blueberry’s color, has the following effects on mammalian physiology:
- C3G enhances the uptake of glucose by myotubes, causing calories to be preferentially used by muscle fibers instead of being stored as fat.
- C3G raises adiponectin levels, which regulates glucose levels and increases fatty acid breakdown.
- C3G decreases leptin levels, a hormone directly connected to body fat and obesity.
- C3G improves endurance by increasing the production of chemical intermediates involved in producing ATP, the cell’s energy currency.
- C3G increases insulin sensitivity and limits fat gain.
- C3G, taken before a workout, helps shuttle energy from pre-workout nutrition directly to muscle cells.
- C3G enhances the activity of brown adipose tissue.
- C3G transforms white adipose tissue into brown adipose tissue.
- C3G increases mitochondrial number and function and prevents mitochondrial dysfunction.
- C3G limits abdominal obesity and reduces systemic inflammation.
- C3G reduces triglycerides, lowers blood sugar, and reduces cholesterol.
- C3G improves skeletal muscle endurance by increasing levels of ATP.
- C3G improves night vision and helps prevent eye fatigue.
- C3G promotes liver health and fortifies it against damage from alcohol.
- C3G reduces risk of heart attack.
- C3G mimics the life-extending benefits seen in calorie-restriction diets.
- C3G reduces inflammation in fat cells, causing them to shrink.
- C3G compares favorably in laboratory experiments with acarbose, a prescription glucose-disposal drug.
You clearly want to get C3G and other berry anthocyanins and metabolites into your system, but just eating a handful of naked blueberries isn’t the best way to do it. You need to combine your berries with a casein-based protein drink, as in a blended protein drink. However, there’s another alternative.
Biotest faced the anthocyanin-absorption problem years ago when it wanted to bring its Indigo-3G product to market. Its solution was to combine C3G with a pharmaceutical standby called gelucire.
Gelucire is a mixture of mono, di, and triglycerides used to increase the bioavailability of various drugs. It’s a blend of fatty acids with extreme hydrophobicity and low density, making it an ideal compound/drug carrier.
So Biotest took pure C3G, each batch chemically harvested from an impressive amount of berries, and combined it with gelucire to make an extremely potent anthocyanin delivery system. It’s virtually impossible to ingest enough berry/casein shakes to approximate the dosage and effects of one serving of Indigo-3G.
However, IF you’ve got some blueberries or blackberries handy and you’re preparing a protein (casein-based) shake, blend them together to get the most out of those berries.
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