Improve Your Night Vision With Bilberry
By Wellyn Leu
Bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus) is a shrub found in the mountains of Europe and North America. It is related to the North America’s blueberry and huckleberry. The shrub produces a blue black or purple berry with purple meat from July through September, depending on the elevation. This berry is the part of the plant of interest. In addition to its use as a food, it was documented as being used to treat kidney stones, biliary problems, scurvy, coughs, and tuberculosis in the 1500s. It has also been used to make a traditional tea to treat diabetes, and purportedly has a hypoglycemic effect. Little is known about bilberry’s active constituents and their pharmacology, although it has been studied since at least 1964 for ophthalmological and vascular disorders.
Most of these studies were performed in Europe and many are published in non-English or obscure journals. Stories of British Royal Air Force pilots eating bilberry jam during World War II to improve their night vision may have prompted some of these studies. In the United States, bilberry is usually sold in capsule form as an antioxidant and to promote eye health. It is sometimes combined with other vitamins or herbs purported to be beneficial to the eye, such as lutein or eyebright.
Bilberry’s ability to stimulate synthesis of connective tissue glycosaminoglycans may be the mechanism underlying its beneficial effects in several pathologies. Its gastroprotective, vasoprotective, and healing properties may all be tied to this action.Billberry extract was able to inhibit vascular endothelial growth factor expression by human keratinocytes in vitro. This suggests that bilberry or its constituents may have a role in cancer prevention or treatment.
Bilberrry was able to attenuate only the acute effect of Triton on triglycerides, suggesting that bilberry improves lipoprotein clearance, but does not affect lipoprotein production. Although bilberry’s effect on triglycerides is similar to that of the fibric acid derivatives (e.g., gemfibrozil, fenofibrate) used therapeutically to treat hypertriglyceridemia, bilberry did not affect thrombus size or composition, suggesting that it does not possess antithrombotic activity, as has been demonstrated with some fibric acid derivatives.
Oxidized low-density lipo-protein (LDL) is known for its ability to stimulate inflammatory processes involved in the formation of atherosclerotic plaques. For this reason, there has been interest in the use of antioxidants such as bilberry to protect against LDL oxidation.
Bilberry jam purportedly improved night vision in Royal Air Force pilots within 24 hours of eating bilberry jam, and at least five European studies showing the beneficial effect of bilberry on night vision were published prior to 1970. A 1997 Israeli study published as an abstract found negative results, as did a more recent study performed in 15 Navy Seals. In this trial, Muth and colleagues studied the effect of bilberry extract (25% anthocyanocides) 160 mg taken three times daily for 3 weeks on night visual acuity and night contrast sensitivity in subjects with visual acuity correctable to at least 20/20.
An independent laboratory verified the composition of the extract used. Eight subjects were given placebo and seven were given the extract in double-blind fashion. After a 30-day washout, the subjects were crossed over the alternate treatment arm. Nighttime visual acuity and contrast sensitivity were measured under lighting conditions simulating full moonlight. These studies showed that bilberry improved night visual acuity, adaptation to darkness, and recovery of visual acuity after glare.
There are currently no reported adverse effects from the consumption of bilberry or related compounds. When the fruit is consumed in amounts normally contained in foods, bilberry falls under the Generally Recognized as Safe category according to the US Food and Drug Administration.
Bilberry have several benefits, but it might not work for everyone, the good news is there are no side effects from consuming the fruit. The leafs is just the opposite since it contains toxins. Bilberry is a good option to improve night vision.
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