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Slash Heart Attack Risk With Berries

Just three servings a week can cut chances of a cardiovascular event by one third

BHM Edit Staff | 1/15/2014, 11:28 a.m.
Strawberries and blueberries and heart disease—oh my! Thinkstock

Belly up to the berry bar, ladies. Research shows that eating three or more servings of blueberries and strawberries each week may cut heart attack risk in women by one-third. A serving of fresh blueberries is one cup; one cup of fresh sliced strawberries makes up a serving.

These berries, says the research from the University of East Anglia in conjunction with the Harvard School of Public Health, contain high levels of powerful bioactive compounds called anthocyanins, a sub-group of dietary flavonoids. Scientists believe these compounds may help dilate arteries, counter the build-up of plaque and provide other cardiovascular benefits.

During the 18-year Nurses’ Health Study II, 93,600 women between ages 25 and 42 completed questionnaires about their diets every four years. During the study period, 405 heart attacks occurred. Women who ate the most blueberries and strawberries had a 32 percent reduction in their heart attack risk compared to women who ate the berries once a month or less—even in women who ate a diet rich in other fruits and vegetables.

“We have shown that even at an early age, eating more of these fruits may reduce risk of a heart attack later in life. This is the first study to look at the impact of diet in younger and middle-aged women,” said Aedín Cassidy, head of the department of nutrition at the University of East Anglia and lead author of the study. “Blueberries and strawberries were part of this analysis because they are the most-eaten berries in the United States.” And it’s quite simple to add small servings to a woman’s diet.