New blueberry research at University of Prince Edward Island is investigating whether adding probiotics to the fruit helps reduce high blood pressure.

Cynthia Blanton, assistant professor of nutrition at Idaho State University, is at UPEI on a four-month Fulbright Canada fellowship, a program which awards researchers opportunities to conduct work abroad though academic and cultural exchange.

Blanton will add probiotics, health-promoting bacteria, to blueberries in rats' diets to see if they increase the power the blue fruit has to reduce hypertension, a condition from which about a third of Canadians and Americans suffer.

"It is a major contributor to cardiovascular death, which is one of the top killers of North Americans. Plus, hypertension often is associated with diabetes and that leads to a whole bunch of problems," said Blanton.

"If we can get a better control over hypertension that would really help the quality of life and the length of life for people."

Blanton says, as a dietician, she always recommends a food-based solution rather than having to use drugs to avoid or control high blood pressure.              

The $10,000 project is being funded by the Wild Blueberry Association of North America and Idaho State University.