Finally a heart healthy food that’s sweet. Blueberries might be joining the ranks of oatmeal and fatty fish as a food you can actually add to your diet to help lower heart disease risk. While people at risk for heart disease might think about all the foods they are told not to eat, a small recent study found some possible benefits of adding blueberries to the diet. Why are these berries so great for your heart? Most likely due to their high antioxidant content. Blueberries have a similar antioxidant power as what is found in grapes and nuts.
Researchers in Oklahoma conducted the study using 48 obese participants with metabolic syndrome who were older than 21 years of age. A major concern in the U.S., metabolic syndrome is a cluster of factors that puts someone at greater risk for type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease (heart disease or stroke). Someone is deemed to have metabolic syndrome when they have at least three of the following:
- High waist circumference: greater than 35” for women or 40” for men
- High Triglycerides: greater than 150 mg/dL
- Low HDL: less than 50 mg/dL for women or 40 mg/dL for men
- High Blood Pressure: Greater than 130/85 mmHg (systolic/diastolic)
- High Fasting Glucose: greater than 100 mg/dL
Half of the participants drank 2 cups per day of a beverage made with freeze-dried blueberries reconstituted with water and flavored with either vanilla extract or Splenda, which was equivalent to 2.3 cups (350 grams) of fresh blueberries. The other half drank the equivalent volume in water. After eight weeks, those in the blueberry-group showed a greater decrease in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure than the water-group. The blueberry-group also showed greater decreases in markers of oxidative stress, which is a risk factor for heart disease. Other measurements, such as weight, waist circumference, blood glucose levels, triglycerides, total LDL cholesterol (“bad” cholesterol), HDL cholesterol (“good” cholesterol), or total cholesterol, did not differ between the groups.
There were some drawbacks to the study that should be considered. Only 48 people participated, just four of whom were male. While decreasing risk factors is important, it should be kept in mind that this study didn’t measure heart disease outcomes, such as heart attack or stroke. Perhaps future studies will look at the extended effect of blueberry intake on heart disease.
While the study used freeze-dried blueberries, the equivalent amount of blueberry juice, fresh or frozen blueberries should provide similar results, so you can include this antioxidant powerhouse all year long.
Time to add some blueberries to your life.