Eating a cup of blueberries a day reduces risk factors for cardiovascular disease – according to new research led by the University of East Anglia (UEA), in collaboration with colleagues from Harvard and across the UK.
New findings published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition show that eating 150 g of blueberries daily reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease by up to 15%.
The research team from UEA’s Department of Nutrition and Preventive Medicine, Norwich Medical School, say that blueberries and other berries should be included in dietary strategies to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease – particularly among at risk groups.
The team set out to see whether eating blueberries had any effect on metabolic syndrome – a condition, affecting third of westernised adults, which comprises at least three of the following risk factors: high blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist, low levels of ‘good cholesterol’ and high levels of triglycerides.
The team investigated the effects of eating blueberries daily in 138 overweight and obese people, aged between 50 and 75, with metabolic syndrome. The six-month study was the longest trial of its kind.
They looked at the benefits of eating 150 gram portions (one cup) compared to 75 gram portions (half a cup). The participants consumed the blueberries in freeze-dried form and a placebo group was given a purple-coloured alternative made of artificial colours and flavourings.
Co-lead, Dr Peter Curtis, also from UEA’s Norwich Medical School, said: “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%.
“The simple and attainable message is to consume one cup of blueberries daily to improve cardiovascular health.
Unexpectedly, we found no benefit of a smaller 75 gram (half cup) daily intake of blueberries in this at-risk group. It is possible that higher daily intakes may be needed for heart health benefits in obese, at-risk populations, compared with the general population.”
The research was led by the University of East Anglia in collaboration with The Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, the University of Southampton, the University of Surrey, and the University of Cambridge. It was funded by the US Highbush Blueberry Council and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC).
Curtis PJ, et al. (2019). Blueberries improve biomarkers of cardio metabolic function in participants with metabolic syndrome – results from a 6-month, double blind, randomized controlled trial. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition; https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/nqy380