A new international study suggests that eating blueberries and strawberries three times a week cuts the risk of heart attacks in women by a third.
The findings come from a major US study of 93,600 women aged between 25 and 42, which tracked their health over 18 years. While the study involves only women, it’s thought the results may also apply to men.
The researchers found that women who ate blueberries and strawberries at least three times a week had a 32 per cent reduction in their risk of heart attack, compared to those whose intake was limited to once a month or less – regardless of whether they had an otherwise nutritious diet. The findings were independent of risk factors such as age, high blood pressure, family history of heart attack, weight, exercise, smoking, caffeine or alcohol intake.
The berries contain relatively high levels of dietary flavonoids, which may prevent heart disease by helping to dilate blood vessels and by countering the build-up of plaque that can cause blockages in the coronary arteries.
Professor Eric Rimm, one of the senior study authors from the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, said: “Blueberries and strawberries can easily be incorporated into what women eat every week. This simple dietary change could have a significant impact on prevention efforts.”
“We have shown that even at an early age, eating more of these fruits may reduce risk of a heart attack later in life,” added Professor Aedín Cassidy, co-author of the study.
Dan Peach, President of the Blueberries NZ Association, says the findings reinforce blueberries’ position as one of the world’s true superfoods. “Scientific research continues to highlight the extraordinary health benefits of blueberries, from lessening the risk of heart attacks to boosting brain power and helping to repair damaged cells. Last year, for example, a Massey University and Plant & Food Research study discovered that New Zealand blueberries can hasten muscle recovery after exercise.”