UAF looking for berries for health study

Posted: Wednesday, August 06, 2003

FAIRBANKS (AP) The University of Alaska Fairbanks is asking for berry donations, any kind of berries, raspberries, cranberries, even cloudberries and crowberries.

The berries will play a role in a study aiming to learn how potent Alaska berries are to human health.

Collected berries will be juiced and tested for organic chemicals. The level of antioxidants is what researchers will be looking for. Antioxidants, found in many types of vegetables and fruits, are valuable in their relation to free radicals, which are unstable particles that accumulate in the human body over the years, destroying tissue and advancing the aging process.

A study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture about five years ago found that blueberries showed a particularly high potential as health boosters. In addition, deeper pigment in berries seemed to be related to higher antioxidant levels. That fact intrigued Alaska researchers, said UAF associate professor of horticulture Pat Holloway.

''Ours sure are purple,'' Holloway said of Alaska blueberries, ''more than the ones in the store.''

The project is funded through USDA New Crop Opportunities grants that total about $175,000 over three years.

Holloway sees several benefits for Alaskans once the results of the study are known and published. One is that consumers will have solid information on how healthy wild berries are.

The study could also reap economic and agricultural benefits, helping makers of Alaska products, such as berry syrups, promote their products.

Berry pickers who want to share their bounty should bring fresh or frozen berries to the Georgeson Botanical Garden visitors center at UAF, (907) 474-5651.

Donors will need to tell the date the berries were collected and generally where the berries were picked. But, said Holloway, there is no need to divulge the exact location of those guarded berry-picking spots.

Berry donations will be taken through the end of September.

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