NEW YORK, July 14 (UPI) -- Wild blueberries native to the tropical regions of Central and South America have two to four times more antioxidants than U.S. blueberries, researchers say.
Professor Edward Kennelly, a biologist at Lehman College in New York and Paola Pedraza, a botanist at The New York Botanical Garden, examined five species of blueberries.
The two species that had the highest amounts of antioxidants are Cavendishia grandifolia and Anthopterus wardii, the researchers say.
"We consider these two species of neotropical blueberries to be extreme superfruits with great potential to benefit human health," Kennelly says in a statement.
Antioxidants found in fruits and vegetables have been associated with lower incidence of some chronic diseases and may help protect against heart disease, inflammatory ailments such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and even cancer, the researchers say.
More than 600 neotropical species are related to the "highbush" blueberries common to the U.S. market and several, including the two most promising species of Kennelly and Pedraza, are native to the high-elevation forests of the Andes Mountains -- one of the most endangered ecosystems in the world.
Although these super blueberries are wild species that are not currently commercially available, the scientists say they have the potential to become a popular food item or health supplement if their high antioxidant content becomes better known.
"I think it's just a matter of time until people start working on making them more available," Pedraza says.