New research conducted by European researchers indicates consumption of wild blueberries can help blood vessel function and health.

Published in the September edition of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the study was supported by the Alpro Foundation Grant and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council. Portland, Maine-based Wild Blueberry Association of North America donated blueberry test materials (typically freeze dried powder of whole blueberries) for the study, which was conducted by researchers at the University of Reading in Reading, United Kingdom, University Dusseldorf, Dusseldorf, Germany, and the University of Northumbria, Newcastle upon Tyne, U.K.

The findings are the first to link wild blueberry polyphenols, natural compounds that are present in goods volume in wild blueberries, to improvements in vascular function in healthy men, according to a news release from the Wild Blueberry Association of North America.

“Importantly, even the lowest amount of wild blueberries tested in the study, equivalent to 3/4 cup of wild blueberries, was able to improve endothelial function, which is an amount easy to incorporate into a daily diet,” Ana Rodriguez-Mateos, from the Division of Cardiology, Pulmunology and Vascular Medicine at the University of Dusseldorf, said in the release.

“The simple message is eat your fruits and vegetables in all the colors,” said David Bell, executive director of the Wild Blueberry Commission of Maine, Portland. Bell said the research on health benefits may perhaps be true for cultivated blueberries, but researchers only studied wild blueberries.

Less than 1% of Maine’s wild blueberries are sold fresh, with nearly all the harvest frozen. Maine’s growers harvest about 86 million pounds of wild blueberries annually.

Bell said Oct. 28 there are many more health studies “in the pipeline,” with more studies using clinical human trials and also delving into the “why” behind apparent health benefits.“What I think we are figuring out is that blueberries are up regulating some (positive) genes and down regulating other (negative) genes,” he said.