Broccoli and blueberries could be a saviour for people with digestive problems, new research suggests.

A study conducted by Nutrigenomics New Zealand tested the effects of blueberries and broccoli on 36 mice with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) symptoms over 21 weeks.

The results for the two supposed superfoods were positive, suggesting both could alter gut bacteria and improve inflammation associated with the disease.

The study was carried out as part of an investigation in to methods of improving gut health within humans. About 15,000 New Zealanders suffer from inflammatory bowel disorders and Crohn's disease.


The next step is to clinically test how humans with IBD and other digestive problems can benefit from a diet rich in the two foods, said Plant and Food Research scientist Dr Gunaranjan Paturi.

"There is a growing body of evidence to suggest that the compounds found in fruit and vegetables can offer beneficial effects to gastrointestinal health," Dr Paturi said.

"In the mice we have seen these changes, so it is a possibility that in the humans there might be an effect. So there should be some clinical trials that should look forward and see how this really changes in humans.''

However, no human clinical trials are planned at this stage because of funding constraints, he said.

Dr Paturi said the two foods were tested because of commercial interest in the effect of them, and because both broccoli and blueberries were widely consumed by Kiwis already.

Studies had shown dietary fibre was stored in the green broccoli stalks, which many chose to throw away in favour of the flowery heads. Broccoli also has some anti-cancer effects, he said.

Seven Palmerston North-based scientists carried out the study as part of the Nutrigenomics New Zealand research collaboration, combining efforts from Plant and Food Research, The University of Auckland, AgResearch and funded by the Ministry of Science and Innovation.

The study was carried out in 2010, but has been recently published in international journal Nutrition.