This powerful fruit could be the key to treating cervical cancer more effectively, naturally and inexpensively.

Blueberries are full of fiber, low in calories and a nutrient-packed superfood—oh, and they’re delicious. As if we didn’t already love them enough sprinkled on top of oatmeal, blended in to our morning smoothie or paired with almonds for a sweet and salty snack combo, it turns out that these powerful berries have recently been used in a study on the treatment of cervical cancer.

Many cancer patients undergo radiation treatments to fight the disease. While radiation therapy does destroy cancer cells, it also destroys healthy cells—so researchers hope to find ways to make treatment more efficient or effective, and reduce or eliminate harm to healthy tissues.

In a study using in vitro human cancer cells, researchers from the University of Missouri School of Medicine combined blueberry extract with radiation. Blueberries contain resveratrol, a natural chemical that makes cancer cells more responsive to radiation therapy. The researchers found that, when paired with radiation, the blueberry extract worked as a radiosensitizer, making the cancer cells more susceptible to the effects of radiation.

In the cells that were treated with only radiation, the cancer decreased by roughly 20 percent. But the cells that were treated with radiation and blueberry extract decreased by 70 percent. The flavonoids found in blueberries may also have anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties, says Yujiang Fang, M.D., Ph.D., who led the study.

Fang has high hopes for this natural and potentially less expensive treatment option, should it be successful in the later stages of research. “Blueberries are very common and found all over the world,” he said in a press release by the University of Missouri School of Medicine. “They are readily accessible and inexpensive. As a natural treatment option for boosting the effectiveness of existing therapies, I feel they would be enthusiastically accepted.”

Photo credit: Andrew Welch, Unsplash