A Berry Tasty Treatment

It’s hard to think of anyone who doesn’t enjoy the flavor of fresh summer berries off the vine, baked in a pie, made into jam, or over ice cream. One of the tastiest varieties is the boysenberry, a hybrid originally developed in the 1920s by a farmer near Napa, California, named Rudolf Boysen and made popular by Walter Knott, a berry expert from the Los Angeles area. You may have visited or heard of the Knott’s Berry Farm theme park, only 8 miles from the original Disneyland. Japanese researchers recently found indications that eating boysenberries may make people more resistant to mesothelioma, and could slow the spread of the cancer in those who have contracted the disease. In the study, the researchers injected two groups of rats with asbestos fibers. One group was fed its regular food; the second group received food with a small amount of powder made from dried boysenberries. After a year, 35% of the rats from the first group showed symptoms of mesothelioma.

Among the rats that were fed boysenberries, the percentage of those with symptoms was half that of the first group–and the onset of symptoms took two months longer. The researchers attribute this to the antioxidant molecules in polyphenol, a chemical that occurs naturally in berries. Once known as “Vitamin P,” polyphenol is thought to play a significant role in the prevention of cardio-vascular disease and cancer. The boysenberry has an interesting lineage; on one side, its grandparents are the raspberry and the blackberry, the offspring of which is the loganberry. Its other parent is the dewberry, a wild berry common in the Northern Hemisphere. While all of its forebears contain the polyphenol antioxidant, the hybridization process has given the boysenberry a significantly greater concentration. Other foods known to be high in polyphenols include tea, beer, red wine, olive oil, chocolate, walnuts, peanuts and yerba mate, a drink made from a South American relative of the holly plant. The research study was conducted at Sagami Women’s University in Sagamihara, Japan, earlier this year.