Dr. Amy B. Howell’s program focusses on the active compounds responsible for the health benefits of cranberries and blueberries. Since 1993, Dr. Howell has been engaged in research aimed at identifying the active compounds in cranberries that prevent urinary tract infections and determining their role in maintenance of urinary tract health. Howell and her team were the first to isolate specific compounds from cranberry fruit capable of preventing E. coli bacteria from attaching to cells from the urinary tract, interrupting a crucial first step in the infection process. This work was published in The New England Journal of Medicine in 1998. She is keen to have consumers utilize more natural alternative methods, such as cranberry for bacterial disease prevention in an effort to curb overuse of antibiotics and resistance development.
Blueberries are known for their broad array of phytochemicals which can improve age-related mental decline, including cognitive and motor functions, and reduce risk factors for heart disease and cancer. In Howell’s lab, she isolates medicinal compounds from blueberries and collaborates with other researchers to determine their health effects, especially on human viruses and periodontal disease. She is the Public Member on the US Highbush Blueberry Council and is intimately involved with supporting many of the health research projects that are ongoing with blueberries.
Howell actively supports the cranberry and blueberry industries and trade associations by educating consumers and healthcare professionals through seminar presentations on health attributes of the fruits. She has travelled to over 20 countries on international trade missions to present the latest findings on health-related research. She regularly travels as part of a team to China and India under the Global Based Initiative (GBI), a program funded by USDA and the Foreign Agricultural Service to introduce cranberries overseas.