The Seventh Biennial Berry Health Benefits Symposium

Navindra P. Seeram *a and Britt Burton-Freeman *b
aBioactive Botanical Research Laboratory, Department of Biomedical and Pharmaceutical Sciences, College of Pharmacy, University of Rhode Island, Kingston, Rhode Island, USA. E-mail: nseeram@uri.edu; Fax: +1-401-874-9367/5787; Tel: +1-401-874-9367/5787
bCenter for Nutrition Research, Institute for Food Safety and Health, Department of Food Science and Nutrition, Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago, Illinois, USA. E-mail: bburton@iit.edu; Fax: +1-708-341-7078; Tel: +1-708-341-7078


Research advancing current scientific understanding of the health benefits of berries continues to increase. The Berry Health Benefits Symposium (BHBS) is a biennial meeting highlighting the most recent berry health benefits research from all over the world. Pismo Beach, California was the venue for the seventh biennial BHBS in 2017, and featured oral invited papers on heart health and healthy aging, gut/microbiome health, brain aging, inflammation, cancer prevention, berry special topics, technology and chemistry. These thematic health areas, while not exhaustive, characterize the state of berry health benefits science. The advancing field now encompasses human efficacy trials along with the most recent animal model and cell culture work elucidating mechanisms of action. Similar to past meetings, the research findings at the 2017 BHBS primarily focused on blackberries, blueberries, red raspberries, black raspberries, cranberries, and strawberries. However, research on other berry fruits, such as chokeberry (aronia berry), cloudberry, and bilberry were also covered. The BHBS continues to be a leading forum for interactions between scientists and berry industry stakeholders. The cluster of papers in this issue represents a snapshot of presentations at the 2017 BHBS, which support the positive biological effects of berries on human health and disease risk reduction.


The Berry Health Benefits Symposium (BHBS) had its seventh biennial meeting in Pismo Beach, California, USA (see website: http://www.berryhealth.org) from March 28–30, 2017. The meeting presents the most recent advances in berry health research attracting prominent research from the around the world; and correspondingly, a growing and diverse audience of scientists and health and industry professionals, ranging from dietitians and physicians to growers and processors to sales and marketing professionals at small and large international companies. Spanning over a decade, the meeting presentations at the BHBS have progressed from mostly in vitro and in vivo animal models to human efficacy trials. In 2017, the BHBS featured thematic sessions on heart health and healthy aging, gut/microbiome health, brain aging, inflammation, cancer prevention, berry composition/metabolism and berry technology for health outcomes. Oral presentations and a poster session, including a student poster competition, provided two-days packed with the latest berry research. The presentations largely focused on the major North American berry crops, including blackberries, red raspberries, black raspberries, strawberries, blueberries (cultivated and wild), and cranberries; however, other berries were also included such as bilberries and aronia berries. In addition to the scientific sessions, pre-meeting sessions the first morning brought berry research terminology into focus with presentations by Navindra Seeram and Britt Burton-Freeman (Berry-ology 102) followed by insights on berry consumption in the USA (Patricia Geunther, NHANES analysis 2007–2012), perspectives from a farmer's point of view (panel featuring farmers from different growing regions and crops), and strategies for marketing berry health messages (marketing professionals from major berry brands). The meeting sessions culminated with a gala dinner and keynote address by Professor David Hughes (Emeritus Professor of Food Marketing at Imperial College London) and a California berry discovery tour on the final day. The combination of topics, berry learning opportunities and wide-ranging professional interactions makes the BHBS the leading scientific meeting dedicated to berry health research.

The 2017 BHBS was supported by the National Berry Crop Initiative (NBCI), a not-for profit partnership of industry, academia and government (based in the USA), with sponsorship (in alphabetical order) from: Artemis International, Body and Brains, California Strawberry Commission, Chilean Blueberry Committee, Complete Phytochemical Solutions, Dole Food Company, Inc., Driscoll's, Inc., Florida Strawberry Growers Association, Fruit d'Or, GoodFarms, National Processed Raspberry Council, Naturipe Farms, LLC, New England Vegetable & Berry Growers Association, North American Raspberry & Blackberry Association, North American Strawberry Growers Association, Ocean Spray Cranberries, Inc., Oregon Raspberry and Blackberry Commission, Royal Society of Chemistry's Food & Function Journal, Sun Belle, Inc., The Cranberry Institute, The New Zealand Institute for Plant & Food Research Ltd, US Highbush Blueberry Council, Well·Pict Berries, Wild Blueberry Association of North America, Wisconsin Cranberry Growers Association, Wyman's of Maine.

Invited oral presentations were part of six themed sessions including: Session 1, ‘Berry Special Topics, Food Technology & Chemistry’, chaired by Navindra Seeram (College of Pharmacy, The University of Rhode Island, Kingston, RI, USA); Session 2, ‘Berries, Heart and Healthy Aging’ chaired by Britt Burton-Freeman (Institute for Food Safety and Health, Illinois Institute of Technology, Bedford Park, IL, USA); Session 3, ‘Berries and Metabolism’, chaired by Ronald Prior (Department of Food Science, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, AR, USA); Session 4, ‘Berries and Brain Aging’, chaired by Barbara Shukitt-Hale (USDA-ARS Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, Boston, MA, USA); Session 5, ‘Berries and Cancer’, chaired by Ramesh Gupta, (University of Louisville, Kentucky, USA); and, Session 6, ‘Berries and Gut Health/Gut Microbiota’, chaired by Jess Reed, (Department of Animal Sciences, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI, USA). The poster session and competition was chaired by Luke Howard (Department of Food Science, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, AR, USA) engaging thoughtful interactions with students, post-doctoral fellows and seasoned scientists. A list of speakers in each session and accompanying titles and abstracts can be found at (http://berryhealth.org/).

Overall, the meeting continues to shed light on the complexity of berry chemistry and their value to human health. Berries embody a unique phytochemistry from other plant foods distinguished by their (poly)phenolic, especially anthocyanin, content. However, even within the berry category there are distinctive phytochemical characteristics owing to variation in anthocyanin/anthocyanidin content and composition and to co-existing nutrient and phytochemical profiles. When consumed, the human body produces a vast number of metabolites ranging in concentrations from high picomolar/low nanomolar to micromolar concentrations. Only recently has technology advanced to allow researchers to quantify and characterize the absorption, distribution, metabolism and clearance kinetics of berry phytochemicals. In vitro and in vivo animal model studies have been incredibly insightful in identifying potential human health effects; and accordingly, the field is now demonstrating berry health benefits across a range of indications from the brain to heart to gut health in human clinical trials. Mechanistically, berry compounds appear to be acting through cell signaling pathways influencing an array of physiological processes, many related to managing inflammatory stress and redox imbalances, including their downstream consequences. While common effects are apparent, data are also accumulating suggesting that each berry type and their unique metabolite profiles may translate to specific health benefits including improvements in blood lipid profiles, blood pressure, insulin sensitivity, memory and mobility in older adults, cancer protection, and arthritis-based diseases. Likewise, the role of berries in gut health is rapidly emerging showing changes in gut microbial composition and function. In recent years, the gut has attracted attention as a potential key organ unlocking the mysteries of many local (intestinal) and systemic diseases. Hence, combining the expertise from multiple fields, all gathered over a common interest in berries/berry phytochemicals, has been immensely powerful in advancing the knowledge and our current scientific understanding of berries in health and disease risk reduction. Food technology will undoubtedly open up new avenues in the market place to consume berries to enhance health and promote longevity and quality of life. Currently, there is a major issue of too few berries being consumed (data from 2007–2012 NHANES), yet evidence for the importance of eating berries, and different berry types, regularly is emerging.

In conclusion, the 2017 BHBS was another successful meeting communicating impressive science and engaging professionals from multiple backgrounds and professional fields interested in berries. We would like to thank Food and Function and the NBCI, all the donors and participants of the 2017 BHBS, as well as the authors who contributed to this themed collection of papers. We look forward to the eighth biennial BHBS in 2019 in Portland, Oregon, USA.


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Navindra Seeram


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Britt Burton-Freeman


This journal is © The Royal Society of Chemistry 2018