Fruits, especially berries, are known to have various health benefits ranging from antioxidants, fiber, and help improve blood sugar levels. Recently, scientists discovered that eating black raspberries (BRB) may help reduce inflammation and redness caused by skin allergies.

Black raspberries (not blackberries) have various health benefits such as anthocyanins, which give the berries their dark hue. Anthocyanins have anti-inflammatory properties and also act with a vasoprotective effect, or conditions in the blood vessels being alleviated in the same way that hormone estrogen affects the body.

Another constituent of the black raspberry's natural flavonoids is protocatechuic acid (PCA). Helping reduce the risk of diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular diseases, and brain diseases have been associate with PCA.

Professor Steve Oghumu, teaching pathology at The Ohio State University, said, 'a lot of times, treatments are directly applied to the skin -- things like steroids. And it was interesting that the mere consumption of a fruit can achieve the same effects.'

Eating Black Raspberries

In their study, they observed contact hypersensitivity (CHS), the most common form of dermatitis or skin allergies, by comparing four randomized mice groups fed with human-sized servings of black raspberries versus a standard diet. On the third week of their controlled diets, they were exposed to an irritant causing CHS on their ears. The swelling was reduced on the mice that regularly had black raspberry extract and PCA compared to the ones who didn't eat berries.

The team observed how black raspberries seemed to regulate dendritic cells or messenger cells in the immune system. Dendritic cells identify antigens in the body, sending the go signal for T-cells to activate if necessary.

As a result, they instruct the body to have an inflammation response to contact hypersensitivity. The affected area becomes flooded with cells causing redness and itchiness.

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Helping the Immune System

'The immune system is very complex, with multiple players, and so once you begin to identify the unique cells that are being affected by the berries then it helps us to see how berries are inhibiting inflammation,' Oghumu said. 'A lot of the bad effects that we see are not always due to the pathogens or allergens themselves, but are due to the way our body responds to these triggers.'

Oghumu and the team are hopeful that a black raspberry-rich diet can help reduce inflammation not only in skin allergies but from cancer as well. Chronic inflammation can cause various diseases such as hepatitis, pancreatitis, and colon cancer. 'And so one way to manage these types of diseases is controlling that [allergic] response, and that is one of the things black raspberries appear to be able to do,' he continued.

Dr. Anna Malgorzata Kostecka-Gugala from the University of Agriculture in Krakow, Poland (and not involved in the new study), explained that 'These interactions between particular antioxidants and also between these bioactive substances and other berry fruit constituents are still unclear. This, as well as other factors, complicates the understanding of mechanisms and biological effects of polyphenols in humans.'

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