It can be hard for consumers to reach the recommended daily intake of fruits and vegetables, but a new study about blueberries could send many consumers running to the nearest grocery store.
According to researchers from the University of East Anglia, incorporating blueberries into your daily diet can help improve heart health.
“Previous studies have indicated that people who regularly eat blueberries have a reduced risk of developing conditions including type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease,” said researcher Aedin Cassidy. “This may be because blueberries are high in naturally occurring compounds called anthocyanins, which are the flavonoids responsible for the red and blue colour in fruits. We wanted to find out whether eating blueberries could help people who have already been identified as being at risk of developing these sort of conditions.”
The right amount of blueberries
Because of previous studies that have shown how effective blueberries can be in improving health outcomes, the researchers decided to focus this study on a group that was at an increased risk of developing serious conditions, such as type 2 diabetes or cardiovascular disease.
They had nearly 140 adults participate in the study, all of whom were between the ages of 50 and 75 and had metabolic syndrome -- a group of conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol/triglycerides, and excess body fat around the waist that can increase the risk for type 2 diabetes, heart disease, or stroke.
According to the researchers, “lifestyle changes, including making simple changes to food choices,” can be effective in combating metabolic syndrome, and so they had the participants eat either one cup of blueberries, a half-cup of blueberries, or a placebo food every day for six months to see if the fruit improved their health.
While those who ate the half-cup of blueberries saw no significant changes to their heart health, the participants who consumed one cup of blueberries every day saw major improvements.
“We found that eating one cup of blueberries per day resulted in sustained improvements in vascular function and arterial stiffness -- making enough of a difference to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by between 12 and 15 percent,” said researcher Dr. Peter Curtis.
Overall, the researchers have a very succinct piece of advice for consumers who either are currently struggling with metabolic syndrome or who are just trying to improve their heart health.
“The simple and attainable message is to consume one cup of blueberries daily to improve cardiovascular health,” said Dr. Curtis.
Heart health is just one benefit consumers can reap from blueberries, as recent studies have shown how versatile the fruit is at improving health.
One study found that women following a supplement regimen heavy in antioxidants and amino acids, which blueberries are full of, can reduce their risk of postpartum depression, while the fruit can also help older adults’ cognitive functioning.
A study from earlier this year revealed that the “blue” color in blueberries is precisely why the fruit carries so many health benefits; the fruit’s anthocyanins that cause the color are powerful when it comes to helping consumers lower their blood pressure.
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