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Can Eating Blueberries Help Protect Your Heart?

by Richard A Reagan

With heart disease and the complications associated with it affecting more and more Americans every year, doctors continue to search for ways to minimize the risk of developing heart disease. From dietary changes to new fitness routines, there are myriad methods that have been tried in the fight to combat heart disease. Among the foods touted in the fight are berries, which are full of antioxidants and minerals. And now researchers have found that blueberries are among those most beneficial in protecting the heart from cardiovascular disease.

Researchers recently studied a group of overweight or obese people to determine just how effective blueberries can be. The study participants were all aged between 50 and 75, and were either overweight or obese and suffered symptoms associated with metabolic syndrome. They were separated into three groups, with one group fed the freeze-dried equivalent of one cup of blueberries every day, another group fed the equivalent of a half cup of blueberries every day, and another control group receiving a mixture that looked like blueberry powder but that actually just contained a mixture of sugars, for a period of six months.

Researchers found that those who ate the cup a day of blueberries saw major improvements in cardiovascular function and arterial health. They were so significant that they were equivalent to about a 12-15% reduction in the risk of developing cardiovascular disease. And that was achieved in the absence of changes in blood sugar, blood pressure, or other traditional methods of determining heart disease risk. So even thought on paper their risk may not have decreased, in vivo their consumption of blueberries managed to lower their risk.

Interestingly, the same effects were not observed in the group that ate a half cup of blueberries every day, which led researchers to suspect that the effects were dose-dependent on chemical compounds within the blueberries. The same compounds, anthocyanins, are also found in raspberries, blackberries, plums, and red cabbage. While the study made a good first step in trying to assess the effect of blueberries on heart disease risk, there’s still a lot more research that needs to be done to assess just how effective blueberries (or berries of any sort) are. But if you’re already eating blueberries for their health benefits, there’s certainly no reason to stop.

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