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Three Berries You May Not Know Are Great for Eyesight

Beverley has a degree in Science and additional certifications in nutrition and aromatherapy. She's published on and offline.

Berries are sometimes wild, sometimes domesticated, usually ovoid with thin, deep-colored skins. They can taste sweet, tangy, even bitter. Their nutritional profiles are typically loaded with dietary fiber, vitamin C and antioxidant phytocompounds. Research suggests that these nutrients may have the efficacy to help lower our risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes and various cancers, and improve other areas health such as vision (Swanner, 2020). Bilberry, goji berry and maqui berry are three berries with potent nutritional compounds that may support eye health.

Bilberry shrubs

Bilberry shrubs

Bilberry

Brief History of Bilberry

Indigenous to Great Britain and Central Europe, bilberries have long been used as food and medicine. Some of the more known species are dwarf bilberry and huckleberry. They’re often mistaken for blueberries because of their similar blue-black color. In fact, bilberries are commonly called European blueberries. The small, perennial plant belongs to the Ericaceae family. It’s botanical or scientific name is Vaccinium myrtillus L. Plants also grow in Asia and certain regions of North America (Zoratti, 2016).

Bilberry Nutritional Profile

Bilberry’s nutritional profile includes rich supplies of dietary fiber, vitamin C, the mineral manganese and antioxidant, anti-inflammatory polyphenolic compounds: flavonoids (including anthocyanins), quercetin and catechins, tannins, ellagitannins and phenolic acids. Among berries, bilberry has the highest anthocyanin content (Zoratti, 2016; Petrie, 2019).

Bilberry (European Blueberry)

Bilberry (European Blueberry)

How Does Bilberry Help Vision?

Numerous trials have produced positive results regarding night vision. However, we need clinical studies for conclusive evidence (Cantor, 2004). Some studies deem that the berry may have greater potential in improving other eye ailments.

In one trial, glaucoma patients showed favorable results when they consumed a daily dose of bilberry compared with the placebo group (Shim, 2012). Other research showed the berry’s potential in reducing chronic dry eyes disease and eye fatigue, in protecting optic nerve crush and in suppressing reticulum stress (Riva, 2017), (Liang, 2017), (Nakamura, 2017).

What’s an Appropriate Bilberry Dose?

How to take bilberry? Oral consumption of 20 – 60 grams of dried bilberries or bilberry extract per day is suggested (Cunha).

Possible Side Effects and Safety Concerns of Bilberry

Though relatively safe, bilberry supplements, including powders, taken for a lengthy duration, may cause issues. It is also advised that people with bleeding conditions, on blood thinners and pregnant and breastfeeding women avoid consuming bilberry (Cunha).

Goji Berries on Shrub

Goji Berries on Shrub

Goji Berry

Brief History of Goji Berry

Goji berry has also had a long history of use as food and medicine. In its native China, it has been used for at least 4,000 years. The shrub, part of the Solanaceae family, is botanically called Lycium barbarum L. Other common names include Chinese wolfberry, Tibetan goji, boxthorn and mede berry. Because of a marketing push for the antiaging properties of its fruits, the goji berry plant has been cultivated more recently in Europe and North America (Yujie, 2020).

Goji Berry Nutritional Profile

What nutrients does goji berry contain? It has rich veins of dietary fiber, proteins/ amino acids, vitamins and minerals, including vitamins A, B1, B2, B6 and C, minerals iron, copper and zinc, polysaccharides, linoleic acids, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory polyphenols flavonoids (including carotenoids) and coumarins (Yujie, 2020; USDA, Department of Agriculture, 2019).

Goji Berry Nutrients for Vision

Which of goji berry’s nutrients have the ability to improve vision? Those would be the carotenoids, specifically beta-carotene, zeaxanthin, cryptoxanthin, lutein and lycopene. Goji berries are especially high in zeaxanthin. The polysaccharides seem to promote good eye health as well (Butler, 2018).

Goji Berries

Goji Berries

How Does Goji Berry Help Vision?

Research suggest that goji berries may improve age-related eye diseases such as glaucoma and macular degeneration. Good thing because the latter often leads to blindness in the elderly (Cheng, 2014).

Studies also show that those active constituents may help patients with diabetic retinopathy, and prevent oxidative stress damage from harmful elements such as ultra violet (uv) light and free radicals (Adams, 2017; Bucheli, 2011).

What’s an Appropriate Goji Berry Dose?

How is goji berry consumed? What is a safe dose? Currently, goji berries are ingredients in prepared foods such as juices, granola bars, cereals and powdered extracts. Dried berries are usually available in health food stores and markets. Those can be added to cereals, salads, desserts, smoothies and trail mixes (Butler, 2018). The suggestion is that 15 grams of goji berries should provide enough zeaxanthin to be effective.

If consuming the berries in powdered form, the suggestion is 150 milligrams twice a day. However, we still need conclusive data (Wolters Kluwer Health, 2020). Capsules are also available.

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Possible Side Effects and Safety Concerns of Goji Berry

People may suffer allergic reactions after consuming goji berries. Patients on blood thinners and blood pressure meds should also beware of potential adversity. Data is still needed on consumption by pregnant and breastfeeding women, so it’s safer to avoid them (Wolters Kluwer Health, 2020).

Maqui Berry

Brief History of Maqui Berry

Maqui berry is native to Chile, but grows wild throughout South America. Indigenous Chilean Indians consumed every part of the plant, berries included, for health. Now considered a “superfruit,” the berry is marketed for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory efficacy (Meixner, 2018).

Common names for maqui berry include wineberry, clon and koelon. Scientifically, it’s called Aristotelia chilensis. The plant belongs to the Elaeocarpaceae family (Wolters Kluwer Health, 2020).

Maqui Berry Nutritional Profile

Maqui berry nutraceuticals include caches of alkaloids, polyphenols: flavonoids, coumarins, anthocyanins, quercetin and catechins (Romanucci, 2016; Wolters Kluwer Health, 2020).

How Does Maqui Berry Help Vision?

Research indicate that the bioactive compounds flavonoids and anthocyanins may be effective promoters of healthy eyes (Romanucci, 2016; Tanaka, 2013).

Remember that flavonoids and anthocyanins have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Studies provide good evidence that these properties may help maqui berry prevent the vision damage that occur from overexposure to light sources like the sun, computer monitors and television screens (Rozanowska, 2012).

Research also implies that maqui berry may prevent chronic dry eyes disease (Hitoe, 2014), (Nakamura, 2014).

What’s an Appropriate Maqui Berry Dose?

The easiest way to purchase maqui berries, unless you live in South America, is in the form of juices, liquid extracts, powders or as dried fruit. You can add them to cereal, yogurt, smoothies, desserts and just about any meal (Meixner, 2018). For liquid extracts, a dilution containing 4 milliliters of maqui berry extract may provide enough antioxidant benefits (Wolters Kluwer Health, 2020). You can also purchase capsules and follow the dosage directions provided.

Possible Side Effects and Safety Concerns of Maqui Berry

Evidence on side effects and safety concerns is lacking. However, individuals should keep in mind potential allergic reactions and drug interactions. This also apply to pregnant and breastfeeding women (Wolters Kluwer Health, 2020).

Potential Eyesight Benefits from Bioactive Compounds in Berries

BerriesNutrientsPotential Vision Benefits

Bilberry

Anthocyanin flavonoids

Primarily improves night vision. Improves (age-related) glaucoma. Reduces chronic dry eyes disease. Reduces eye fatigue. Protects optic nerve crush. Suppresses reticulum stress.

Goji Berry

Carotenoids: beta-carotene, zeaxanthin (high quantity), cryptoxanthin, lutein, lycopene. Polysaccharides

Improves age-related eye diseases: glaucoma & macular degeneration. Improves diabetic retinopathy. Prevents oxidative stress damage from uv light, free radicals and other harmful elements.

Maqui Berry

Anthocyanin flavonoids

Prevents damage from overexposure to light sources such as the sun, television screens, computer monitors. Prevents chronic dry eyes disease.

Summary

As we discovered, berries are loaded with lots of bioactive compounds in their nutritional profiles, which may help us maintain excellent health and well-being, including great vision. Bilberry, goji berry and maqui berry, in particular, are worth getting to know for their rich veins of zeaxanthin and anthocyanins. Though more research is needed on these fruits, current studies have produced solid evidence of potential eye health and other benefits.

Note, there’s no medical evidence to support bilberry, goji berry and maqui berry curing, treating or preventing disease in humans. The research provided in this article simply suggest potential. Always consult your healthcare provider before consuming any product for health purposes.

Sources

Berries

Patel Swanner, S. (2020, July 1). Enjoy the Health Benefits of Berries. American Research for Cancer Research. https://www.aicr.org/resources/blog/enjoy-the-health-benefits-of-berries/ .

Bilberry

Zoratti, L et al. (2016). Bilberry – an overview. ScienceDirect. https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/agricultural-and-biological-sciences/bilberry.

Petrie, A. (2019, August 13). 9 Emerging Health Benefits of Bilberries. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/bilberry-benefits#TOC_TITLE_HDR_2.

Canter P H, Ernst E. (2004, Jan – Feb). Anthocyanosides of Vaccinium myrtillus (bilberry) for night vision--a systematic review of placebo-controlled trials. Surv Ophthalmol. 49(1):38-50. doi: 10.1016/j.survophthal.2003.10.006. PMID: 14711439. National Library of Medicine. pubmed.gov. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/14711439/.

Shim, S H et al. (2012, September). Ginkgo biloba extract and bilberry anthocyanins improve visual function in patients with normal tension glaucoma. J Med Food. 15(9):818-23. doi: 10.1089/jmf.2012.2241. Epub 2012 Aug 7. PMID: 22870951; PMCID: PMC3429325. National Library of Medicine. Pubmed.gov. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22870951/.

Riva, A et al. (2017, May). The effect of a natural, standardized bilberry extract (Mirtoselect®) in dry eye: a randomized, double blinded, placebo-controlled trial. Eur Rev Med Pharmacol Sci. 21(10):2518-2525. PMID: 28617532. National Library of Medicine. Pubmed.gov. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28617532/.

Liang, T et al. (2017, January). Effect of a bilberry extract (BILBERON®)-containing diet on the improvement of eye fatigue-related symptoms (II) - A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel-group comparison study. Japanese Pharmacology and Therapeutics 45 (9): 1523-1534. researchgate.net. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/321146481_Effect_of_a_bilberry_extract_BILBERONR_containing_diet_on_the_improvement_of_eye_fatigue_related_symptoms_II_-_A_randomized_double-blind_placebo-controlled_parellel-group_comparison_study.

Nakamura, O et al. (2017). Bilberry extract administration prevents retinal ganglion cell death in mice via the regulation of chaperone molecules under conditions of endoplasmic reticulum stress. Clinical ophthalmology (Auckland, N.Z.), 11, 1825–1834. https://doi.org/10.2147/OPTH.S145159.

Cunha, J. P. Bilberry. RxList. https://www.rxlist.com/consumer_bilberry/drugs-condition.htm.

Goji Berry

Yujie Jiao & Guodong Liu. (2020, October). Goji Berry – a Novel Nutraceutical “Superfruit” for Florida Master Gardeners. IFAS Extension, University of Florida. https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/HS/HS139100.pdf.

Goji berries, dried. (2019, April 1). USDA. U. S. Department of Agriculture. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fds-app.html#/food-details/173032/nutrients.

Butler, N. (2018, August 7). What are the health benefits of goji berries? Medical News Today. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/322693#adding-goji-berries-to-the-diet.

Cheng, J et al. (2014, December 17). An evidence-based update on the pharmacological activities and possible molecular targets of Lyceum barbarum polysaccharides. National Library of Medicine. Pubmed.gov. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25552899/.

Adams, C. (2017, January 13). Goji Berries Aids Eye Health. The Journal of Plant Medicines. Plant Medicine Research. https://plantmedicines.org/goji-berries-keep-eyes-healthy/.

Bucheli, P et al. (2011, February). Goji berry effects on macular characteristics and plasma antioxidant levels. National Library of Medicine. Pubmed.gov. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21169874/.

Wolters Kluwer Health. (2020, October 16). Goji Berry. Drugs.com. https://www.drugs.com/npp/goji-berry.html.

Maqui Berry

Meixner, M. (2018, December 4). 10 Benefits and Uses of Maqui Berry. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/maqui-berry-benefits.

Wolters Kluwer Health. (2020). Maqui Berry. Drugs.com. https://www.drugs.com/npp/maqui-berry.html.

Romanucci, V et al. (2016). Bioactive Compounds of Aristotelia chilensis Stuntz and their Pharmacological Effects. Curr Pharm Biotechnol. 17(6):513-23. Doi: 10.2174/1389201017666160114095246. PMID: 26778456. National Library of Medicine. Pubmed.gov. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26778456/.

Tanaka, J et al. (2013, August 15). Maqui berry (Aristotelia chilensis) and the constituent delphinidin glycoside inhibit photoreceptor cell death induced by visible light. ScienceDirect. https://www.sciencedirect/science/article/abs/pii/S0308814613000605.

Rozanowska, M B. (2012, Nov - Dec). Light-induced damage to the retina: current understanding of the mechanisms and unresolved questions: a symposium-in-print. National Library of Medicine. Pubmed.gov. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23106541/.

Hitoe, S et al. (2014, September). MaquiBright standardized maqui berry extract significantly increases tear fluid production and ameliorates dry eye-related symptoms in a clinical pilot trial. National Library of Medicine. Pubmed.gov. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25208615/.

Nakamura, S et al. (2014, September 10). Delphinidin 3,5-0-diglucoside, a constituent of the maqui berry (Aristotelia chilensis) anthocyanin, restores tear secretion in a rat dry eye model. ScienceDirect. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1756464614002266.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2021 Beverley Byer

Comments

Beverley Byer (author) from United States of America on February 23, 2021:

Glad to help!

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on February 22, 2021:

Thanks for these helpful suggestions. For me, the powders may be the easiest form in which to obtain these berries, but my vision needs help in any form I can get it. I appreciate the information.

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