Extracts of bilberry, a cousin of blueberry, may help improve vision and have other health benefits, but some bilberry supplements may not contain real bilberry extract—the type used in most clinical studies. ConsumerLab.com recently purchased and tested several popular brands of bilberry supplements for authenticity, purity, and the ability of tablets to properly disintegrate. Only 75 percent of the products passed testing. One supplement contained only 62 percent of its promised bilberry compounds and appeared not to be authentic, and another failed to break apart fast enough in disintegration testing.
The use of non-authentic bilberry is well known in the supplement industry, driven by the relatively high cost of European bilberry and the availability of less expensive, non-authentic ingredients, particularly from China. European bilberry has a distinctive profile of antioxidant anthocyanoside compounds. Non-authentic bilberry ingredients are generally spiked with anthocyanosides from other plants, such as other species of berries or even black soybean hull. Americans purchased $27 million worth of bilberry supplements 2011 according to Nutrition Business Journal.
"Consumers can be easily fooled when buying bilberry supplements," said Tod Cooperman, M.D., president of ConsumerLab.com. "Only a lab report can tell you what's really in the bottle, but, at a minimum, you should check the label for the correct species—Vaccinium myrtillus (fruit)—standardized to 36 percent anthocyanosides, which is about 100 times more concentrated than raw bilberry." Dr. Cooperman also encourages consumers to compare prices. Among the products which passed ConsumerLab.com's testing, one could spend up to four times the amount of money to get an equivalent amount of high-quality bilberry extract.
ConsumerLab.com's Bilberry Supplements Review provides test results for nine products - eight selected by ConsumerLab.com and one tested through ConsumerLab.com's Quality Certification Program. Products included in the report are Flora Bilberry Extract, Kroeger Herb Complete Concentrates Bilberry, Life Extension Certified European Bilberry Extract, Nature's Sunshine Bilberry Fruit, Nature's Way Bilberry, Source Naturals Bilberry Extract, Standard Process Medi Herb Bilberry 6000 mg, Whole Foods Standardized Bilberry, and Yerba Prima Bilberry Extra Strength. In addition to test results, the report reviews the scientific evidence for bilberry use, dosage, and potential side effects.