Kyani: Are Alaskan Berries Better?

What do you know about the kyani berry found in Alaska and the products containing it?

– August 4, 2011

Kyani berries are wild Alaskan blueberries that have been promoted online and elsewhere for their supposed anti-aging powers and for their antioxidant content. I’ve seen claims that these berries offer special protection to the nervous system from the effects of aging and help overcome heart disease and diabetes, but I’ve seen no research documenting that they are any better for you than other blueberries. In fact, a search of the medical literature turned up no studies at all of kyani berries or Alaskan blueberries.

All blueberries are packed with nutritional benefits. The anthocyanin pigments they contain are potent antioxidants. An animal study conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the National Institute on Aging showed that a diet containing blueberry extracts enhanced balance, coordination, and memory in aging rats. Researchers tested four groups of animals given diets that included blueberry, strawberry, or spinach extracts, or none of these. The blueberry rats outperformed the others in balance and coordination; and blueberries and strawberries seemed to offer the most protection against oxidative stress in the brain. Researchers are now attempting to learn how long these changes last – and whether the benefits observed would hold true in humans.

Blueberries came out on top in a comparison of the antioxidant capacity of 40 different types of fruits and vegetables at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Center on Aging at Tufts University. While it is unrealistic to expect blueberries – or anything else – to reverse aging, they are a healthy low glycemic-index carbohydrate and a good source of vitamin C and fiber (two grams per one-half cup serving). They also provide ellagic acid, a compound which inhibits tumor growth in laboratory mice. And, like cranberries, blueberries contain a substance that can help prevent urinary tract infections by interfering with the attachment of bacteria to the bladder wall.

As I see it, the promotion of the various drinks, supplements and other products containing kyani berries and their juice is marketing hype. You can get the same health benefits by eating more readily available and less expensive organic blueberries.

Andrew Weil, M.D.

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