Lingonberries are nature’s own vitamin, mineral and polyphenol pills
Polyphenols are produced by forest plants to protect their berries from pests, the sun’s UV radiation and other environmental hazards. Nature’s own regulation system has developed these protective substances for berries over thousands of years. Humans change this system through cultivation. Fertilisers make the berries larger in size. The use of plant protection products reduces the production of the plants’ own protective substances.
The lingonberry (also known as cowberry) has almost no calories. It is virtually fat-free, and does not contain any saturated fat. This is why it is excellent for those who are in need of watching their weight. Lingonberries also have vitamin E and are a source of dietary fibre. Lingonberry contains many minerals (e.g. potassium, magnesium and manganese) and micronutrients (e.g. zinc and iron). Arctic lingonberries are rich in polyphenols, for example, lignans, resveratrol, quercetin and proanthocyanidins. It contains lignans more than any other berry species. It is also rich in organic acids, such as benzoic acid, which play an important role as natural preservatives in berries and other foods.
Source: Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare 2022.
Source: Rimando et al. 2004.
Source: Häkkinen et al. 1999.
Source: Nurmi et al. 2010.
Source: Hellström et al. 2009.
Lingonberries are known to have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and anticancerous properties and are considered beneficial to health. A recent study showed several beneficial aspects of fermented lingonberry juice in the oral environment (Pärnänen 2020). It has also been found that lingonberry supplementation significantly prevents high-fat diet induced metabolic and inflammatory changes in a murine model of obesity (Ryyti et al. 2020). These results encourage evaluation of lingonberries as a part of healthy diet against obesity and its comorbidities. However, further studies in clinical trials are needed so that the beneficial health effects of lingonberry could be verified.
Permitted nutrition claims for lingonberry
- High fibre (4,6 g/100 kcal)
- Low fat (0,7 g/100 g)
- Saturated fat-free (< 0,1 g/100 g)
- With no added sugars (contains naturally occurring sugars)
- Sodium-free (0,005 g/100 g)
Health claim means any claim that states, suggests or implies that a relationship exists between a food category, a food or one of its constituents and health. The starting point for the use of health claims is that claims cannot be used until the scientific substantiation for the claim has been approved. The European Food Safety Authority EFSA assesses the substantiation on which the claim is based and after that the claim is authorised or rejected by the European Commission under a regulation. At the moment, there are not any health claims related to lingonberries or any other berries.
The European Commission maintains a register of authorised and unauthorised claims. Moreover, certain claims are still waiting for the Commission's final decision and therefore these claims may for the time being be used in the marketing of food. When considering lingonberry (Vaccinium vitis-idaea), such claims are for example:
- Contributes to body defences against external agents
- Contributes to physical well-being
- Can protect cells and tissues against oxidative damage
In these examples, the wording of the claim is the same as suggested by the applicant.
More information about lingonberry in the Arctic Lingonberry brochure:
Further information about berries in Healthy Forest Berries brochure:
European Commission 2022. Nutrition and Health Claims.
Finnish Food Authority 2022. Health claims.
Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare 2022. Fineli – Finnish Food Composition Database. Lingonberry, cowberry, Vaccinium vitis-idaea.
Häkkinen, S.H., Kärenlampi, S.O., Heinonen, M., Mykkänen, H.M. & Törrönen, R. 1999. Content of the Flavonols Quercetin, Myricetin, and Kaempferol in 25 Edible Berries. J. Agric. Food Chem. 47: 2274-2279. https://doi.org/10.1021/jf9811065
Hellström, J.K., Törrönen, R. & Mattila, P.H. 2009. Proanthocyanidins in Common Food Products of Plant Origin. J. Agric. Food Chem. 57: 7899-7906 https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/jf901434d
Nurmi, T., Mursu, J., Peñalvo, J.L., Poulsen, H.E. & Voutilainen, S. 2010. Dietary intake and urinary excretion of lignans in Finnish men. British Journal of Nutrition 103: 677-685. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0007114509992261
Pärnänen, P. 2020. Combining biochemistry to dentistry: from in vitro Candida glabrata observations to an in vivo clinical lingonberry application. Doctoral dissertation. University of Helsinki. http://urn.fi/URN:ISBN:978-951-51-6130-7
Rimando, A.M., Kalt, W., Magee, J.B., Dewey, J. & Ballington, J.R. 2004. Resveratrol, Pterostilbene, and Piceatannol in Vaccinium Berries. J. Agric. Food Chem. 52: 4713-4719. https://doi.org/10.1021/jf040095e
Ryyti, R., Hämäläinen, M., Peltola, R. & Moilanen, E. 2020. Beneficial effects of lingonberry (Vaccinium vitis-idaea L.) supplementation on metabolic and inflammatory adverse effects induced by high-fat diet in a mouse model of obesity. PLoS ONE 15(5): e0232605. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0232605