Eat Your Fruit; It’s Good For You
by Robin Smith
Excerpt from a story published in the Charlotte Observer and News & Observer on May 16, 2011.
Dr. Mary Ann Lila has four large upright freezers filled with berries – floor-to-ceiling bags of blueberries, red cranberries, black currants and purple muscadines. But these berries aren’t for making pies or jam.
A world-renowned berry expert, Lila studies the health benefits of blueberries and other berries as the head of N.C. State’s Plants for Human Health Institute in Kannapolis, where what was once a textile mill is now a state-of-the-art research facility.
After her daily breakfast routine of blueberries and oatmeal, Lila heads to her research lab. There, high-tech chromatography machines hum and whir, and flasks of berry juice line the lab bench.
Berries provide big benefits in a small package, Lila said.
Although some say “superfruit” claims are overhyped, Lila says modern science backs them up, especially for berries. Studies suggest berries may help prevent disease, slow aging, enhance endurance and fight infection. With funding from the National Institutes of Health, Lila is trying to identify the specific compounds behind their medicinal powers and understand how they work.
“I might sound like a fanatic, but I think berries like blueberries and cranberries are just the ultimate food,” Lila said. “They’re small, but they’re jam-packed with a diversity of chemicals that combat so many human chronic diseases.”