Q. My eye doctor suggested I take bilberry. Will it cause any complications for my diabetes?
A. Bilberry, an herb related to blueberry, is rich in antioxidants called anthocyanins that give the berries their deep purple color. Bilberry was traditionally used as a diabetes treatment before modern pharmaceuticals were available. Animal research indicates that it can help reduce high blood sugar and insulin hyper-response (Journal of Nutrition, March, 2010), so we encourage you to monitor your blood sugar carefully. A study in Finland showed that a diet rich in fatty fish, bilberries and whole grain products could reduce blood lipids as well as blood sugar and inflammation among people with type 2 diabetes (Diabetologia, Nov., 2011).
Preliminary studies suggest that bilberry extract may help prevent eye damage associated with diabetes. Much of this research was conducted in animals; bilberry appears to protect neurons involved in retinal degeneration (Molecular Nutrition & Food Research, Jul. 2009) and protect the retina from stress-induced changes in gene expression (Molecular Vision, 2012).
No serious side effects of bilberries have been reported. One study from Japan shows that bilberry extract may have the potential to interact with intestinal enzymes critical for drug absorption (Drug Metabolism & Disposition, Apr. 2006). As a result, you may want to take it at a different time from your medications.

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  1. lulu
    Reply

    My eye doctor told me to take a fish oil and a flaxseed capsule in the morning and at nite for dry eyes. It helps as I do not have to put drops in my eyes.

  2. Nancy D.
    Reply

    My husband was diagnosed with macular degeneration and started on lutein and bilberry tablets, taking 1 of each everyday with his vitamins. When he went to get his cataract surgery he asked the Dr. about the macular degeneration and the Dr. said there was no sign of it. He continues to take it to this day. It is inexpensive and I get it at walmart. For dry eyes I use drops from walmart called Refresh.

  3. PP
    Reply

    Bilberry is found in the vitamin/supplements section of Walmart, drug stores, some dollar stores, and online.

  4. Hallett L.
    Reply

    I would be interested in any comments folks have tried for dry eyes.
    Thanks for all the information you give us.

  5. Carol M.
    Reply

    Your newsletter is amazing and wonderfully informative.
    I’m 70 and recently diagnosed with dry macular degeneration in the right eye. No vision loss yet. Of course, mainstream medicine is telling me there is nothing to do about it. Just wait for deterioration. I feel sure there are some natural things I could do to strengthen my eyes and prevent this disease from progressing, or at least slow it down. I also have pre-diabetes but don’t take any medication; just watch my diet and exercise.
    Thanks.

  6. Phyllis
    Reply

    Where do you get bilberry?

  7. MJW
    Reply

    When you say “take bilberry,” I assume you mean the pill form. I’ve seen no other way, nor have I ever seen a bilberry in the flesh.

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