Doctor’s Guide: What Are the Health Benefits of Bitter Berries?

The following article discusses how bitter berries may provide physical and mental health benefits. Bitter berries contain two compounds that aid in weight loss and overall health.

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Commonly known as Katunkuma, bitter berries are common among several cultures in Uganda. FILE PHOTO

KAMPALA | LIFESTYLE UGANDA ( — This article takes a look at the science of bitter berries, their benefits and how they can help to improve your health. Bitter berries contain two compounds that can assist with weight loss and good health overall.

  • In this article, we explore bitter berries’ science and how they may benefit your health.
  • Bitter berries contain two compounds that help with weight loss as well as overall health.
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Including bitter berries in a diet can help reduce cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar levels. In addition, they may help to reduce the risk of diabetes

Studies have not yet provided conclusive evidence on the benefits of bitter berries. However, several potential benefits have been found in animal and human studies. 

Described below are the health benefits of bitter berries and how they may help with weight loss and overall health. Bitter berries contain two compounds that are known to aid weight loss.

Are bitter berries healthy?

Bitter berries contain anthocyanin pigments that are beneficial to health. Bitter berries contain anthocyanin pigments that are beneficial to health. 

Many fruits, vegetables, and herbs are bitter. But the specific compounds found in bitter berries can make them particularly beneficial for health. 

Bitter berries contain two compounds called anthocyanins and quercetin. 

Anthocyanins are dark, blue-black pigments that naturally occur in fruits and berries. However, most commercial versions of these pigments are made using blue and purple dyes.


Anthocyanins also have antioxidant properties. Research in animals has suggested that they help to reduce inflammation in the body, and protect the cells and tissues from free radicals that can damage cells and tissues. 

Many antioxidants work by binding to free radicals, slowing their progression through the body. The same may be true of anthocyanins.


People who eat bitter berries in their diet may experience many of the benefits of anthocyanins without eating the berries themselves. Some products can help people to incorporate bitter berries into their diet. 

One of the anthocyanin-rich foods people can add to their diet is dried cranberries. 

Further research is needed to confirm the health benefits of anthocyanins and quercetin, so people should talk to their doctor before starting a diet based on these findings.

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Other benefits

Studies have also found that bitter berries can help with weight loss. A study published in 2010 found that eating 24 grams (g) of bitter berries for breakfast for 3 months can help to control weight in overweight adults. 

Bitter berries contain a small amount of fiber, which may have some additional benefits. Fiber helps to improve the health of the colon and help people to feel full for longer, which may help them to stick to a diet. 

Many people feel that drinking fruit juice helps to increase appetite and weight. However, a review of studies that found juice can increase hunger has also concluded that “juice’s effect on weight control is much more complex than previously understood.” 

However, in the study mentioned earlier, people were also given a daily dose of anthocyanins and quercetin, and only 2.5 g of fiber was lost during the first 3 months of the study. 

Studies have also suggested that bitter berries help to prevent cancer by reducing oxidative stress. 

A 2008 study found that people with colon cancer who ate a diet high in anthocyanins lost 20 per cent of their tumors, while those who ate the sweet-tasting berries did not. 

Furthermore, studies on rats suggest that anthocyanins may provide protection against colon cancer. They seem to cause the colon to have a lower incidence of inflammation and perhaps cancer.

Healthful fats

Anthocyanins have also been associated with cancer prevention. In a study in mice, anthocyanins were found to help to inhibit metastasis or the spread of cancer cells throughout the body. 

Anthocyanins may also help to prevent heart disease. A study in rats found that they reduced cholesterol levels and lowered blood pressure. 

Some people may find the taste of bitter berries to be bitter and overpowering. However, the ingredient may be helpful in some other ways. For example, one study found that people with high blood pressure had lower levels of both quercetin and anthocyanins in their blood

Anthocyanins can also be beneficial for the immune system. For example, some research has suggested that they may help to protect the body from infections.

Help with anxiety

Several studies have suggested that anthocyanins may help to treat anxiety. For example, scientists from the University of Texas at Austin found that people who consumed anthocyanin-rich blueberries had improved blood flow and brain activity

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They also concluded that these anthocyanins had a positive effect on the body’s response to stress and anxiety. 

To test these results, the researchers randomly split 15 people, most of whom had anxiety, into two groups. Half of the group consumed a milky-white placebo drink that contained no blueberries, while the other half drank the milky-white drink with a blueberry-infused cream. 

The people in the placebo group reported significantly higher levels of anxiety than those in the group drinking a blueberry-enriched drink. This suggests that anthocyanins could have a beneficial effect on people’s health. 

Other studies also suggest that people with anxiety may benefit from the antioxidant-rich, bitter foods that are rich in these chemicals, including blueberries.

Happiness boost

Anthocyanins are also known to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects, which may help to reduce some of the symptoms of mood disorders

For example, one study from 2013 examined how drinking black tea with anthocyanins might affect levels of the chemical dopamine in the brain. 

When participants were given anthocyanins before and after drinking black tea with high levels of dopamine, the levels of dopamine in the brain were reduced, which is evidence of the anti-inflammatory effects of anthocyanins. 

Researchers are continuing to discover new health benefits of eating berries, and further research is required to determine whether anthocyanins can contribute to addressing mental health issues or mental health disorders, such as depression and anxiety.

Risks and side effects

However, people who are concerned about the side effects of bitter berries should talk to their doctor before starting a diet based on the findings. Beware of possible allergic reactions. Some people experience a reaction to the bitter taste of bitter berries.

1. Takeaway

A number of researchers have looked at the health effects of eating bitter berries in the diet, and so far there is limited evidence that bitter berries can help people to manage their weight, improve their mood, and prevent cancer or heart disease

However, people should always talk to their doctor before starting a diet based on these findings. 

Anthocyanins are present in many fruits, so the researchers looking at bitter berries are also investigating whether eating other types of fruit with anthocyanins can help to manage weight. 

Anthocyanins are generally not considered harmful in small amounts, although it is best to speak to a doctor before consuming large amounts to avoid side effects such as eye irritation or tooth decay. 

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All fruits and vegetables have some or all of these chemicals, including vitamin C, antioxidants, and fibers. When choosing fresh fruits and vegetables, it is best to choose those that are in season and include several colors. 

There is little scientific evidence to support the idea that eating bitter foods like berries can help people lose weight or manage their appetite. 

Find out how to get over any dietary hurdles you may have by speaking to a dietitian or seeing our articles on weight loss for people with obesity, plus some helpful tips to make the most of food. 

Peeling and eating blueberries raw is one of the best ways to enjoy them. Peeling and eating blueberries raw is one of the best ways to enjoy them. 

For people who find the taste of bitter berries too much, many people choose to bake, grill, sauté or puree them, which may cut down on the bitterness. 

When buying fresh fruit and vegetables, choose those that are in season and have plenty of color. This will ensure you are getting a broad range of vitamins and nutrients from your diet and will help to prevent the color from fading.

2. Takeaway

Many studies have looked at the health benefits of consuming a few types of berries in the diet, but only limited research has looked at the effect of a diet based entirely on these berries. 

More research is necessary to explore the full range of health benefits of eating berries. If any of the studies above are any indication, consuming berries may help to: 

  1. Help with weight loss
  2. Support the health of the heart
  3. Help with weight management
  4. Promote healthy teeth
  5. Reduce the risk of some types of cancer

Although we strive to provide accurate information about the health benefits of eating bitter berries (katunkuma), it is always possible to make an error. If you find any inaccurate or incomplete info, please comment below.

Musasi Isaac Christopher

An aspiring Lifestyle blogger who specializes in health, food and restaurant sectors. WhatsApp me on +256759100143.