Delicious news! A new study finds that eating a cup of strawberries or blueberries a week can reduce high blood pressure risk, which is a key factor for both heart disease.
The work, intent on investigating the role regular intake of dietary flavonoids might have on the risk of high blood pressure, included over 130,000 women and 23,000 men.
The subjects supplied information about their diet by food frequency questionnaires. Besides tasting naturally sweet and delicious, berries like strawberries and blueberries are low in fat, carbs and calories, but have loads of fiber, vitamins, minerals and those powerhouse antioxidants we’ve all heard so much about. Anthocyanins are only one such nutrient, but there are others.
Over the 14-year period the participants were followed, the team found that 29,000 women and 5,600 men developed hypertension. But those with the highest levels of anthocyanins (a key part of both blueberries and strawberries) had an 8% lower risk for hypertension compared to those who comsumed the least amounts of these nutrient rich fruits.
Anthocyanin is a rather impressive antioxidant that gives these two delicious berries their incredible color. But it might also open blood vessels, helping blood flow more smoothly and lowers the chance for high blood pressure.
The finding even held after experts controlled for other things we know are high blood pressure risk factors. Family history, weight, how active a patient might be, and other dietary factors all play a part.
The risk reduction was most obvious in those who were under 60 years old. Why?
The research team speculates that the damage done over the years is too much for flavonoids to make much difference to blood vessel function in older people. The team points out that this suggests how important it is to eat well before middle age, so you give your body a chance to get the good for you benefits, while they still are beneficial.
Estimates from the American Heart Association have one in three adults in the U.S. being affected by high blood pressure. Another 2 million teens and children are also affected. The causes of 90-95% of high blood pressures aren’t known… even though a doctor can measure your blood pressure quickly and easily in the office. Seems strange that such a potentially dangerous thing could be uncovered with such a simple, pain free test.
Research purists will point out that this new work did have some limitations. No one measured food consumed or took blood pressure levels; these measures were self reported by the study participants. This doesn’t allow for the type of control that researchers like to have in experiments. The next steps will be to test doses of anthocyanins rich foods to judge the prevention of high blood pressure… to set guidelines.
In the meantime, if you’re at risk and want to reduce high blood pressure risk, do something to help yourself. Prevention is the best treatment, and this comes from a healthy lifestyle… eating a nutritious diet (lots of berries/veggies, no processed foods) and not smoking. Keep those cholesterol numbers under control and do all you can to keep them that way.