Eating three or more servings of blueberries and strawberries per week may help women reduce their risk of a heart attack by as much as one-third, researchers reported in the Journal of the American Heart Association.
Blueberries and strawberries contain high levels of naturally occurring compounds called dietary flavonoids, also found in grapes and wine, blackberries, eggplant, and other fruits and vegetables.
A specific sub-class of flavonoids, called anthocyanins, may help dilate arteries, counter the buildup of plaque and provide other cardiovascular benefits, the study suggests.
“Blueberries and strawberries can easily be incorporated into what women eat every week,” said Eric Rimm, the senior author and associate professor of Nutrition and Epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, Mass. “This simple dietary change could have a significant impact on prevention efforts.”
Blueberries and strawberries were part of this analysis simply because they are the most-eaten berries in the United States. Thus, it is possible that other foods could produce the same results, he said.
During the study, 405 heart attacks occurred. Women who ate the most blueberries and strawberries had a 32-percent reduction in their risk of heart attack compared to women who ate the berries once a month or less – even in women who otherwise ate a diet rich in other fruits and vegetables.
The findings were independent of other risk factors, such as age, high blood pressure, family history of heart attack, body mass, exercise, smoking, caffeine or alcohol intake.
The National Institutes of Health and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council of the United Kingdom funded the study.