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What Are the Benefits of Bilberry Supplements?

Bilberry, a relative of the North American blueberry, is a group of European shrubs in the genus Vaccinium. Similar in appearance to blueberries, bilberries are slightly smaller and darker, with a red or purple inner coloration. Notoriously difficult to grow, bilberries are usually harvested in the wild, according to Breanne Findlay, author of "The Celtic Diet: Let History Shape Your Future." Supplements derived from bilberry offer potential health benefits.

Retinal Health

Bilberry antioxidant supplements support healthy vision by helping to regenerate light-sensitive pigments in cells of the retina.  Anthocyanidin compounds in bilberry protect and improve the nutrient status of the retina.

Glaucoma Improvement

A combination of bilberry extract and ginkgo Biloba improved vision in patients with normal-pressure glaucoma -- a condition characterized by damage to the optic nerve that can narrow the visual field eventually total blindness. Participants with normal-pressure glaucoma consumed the combination supplement daily for an average of two years. Results showed a 31 percent visual acuity, according to one rating scale, while the visual field improved by 17 percent.

Blood Sugar Management

Bilberry supplements may help lower your blood sugar, according to an animal study published in the March 2010 "Journal of Nutrition." Diets supplemented with bilberry extract decreased blood sugar levels and improved insulin sensitivity -- the appropriate response of cells to insulin -- in mice with Type 2 diabetes. Bilberry extract activated an enzyme that stimulates fat burning and inhibits cholesterol production, leading to improved glucose absorption in muscles and lower levels of glucose and fat in the liver. 

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