Eating the foods we love while getting the nutrition we need? That’s our favorite song. And, new research says that some blueberry lovers have a serious incentive to enjoy at least one bluetiful serving of their favorite fruit each day.
A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that when adults with metabolic syndrome consumed the equivalent of one cup of fresh blueberries per day (in the form of 26 grams of freeze-dried blueberries), they showed clinically significant improvements in heart health measures.*
If you’re not familiar with metabolic syndrome, it’s a group of risk factors that raise a person’s risk for heart disease and other health problems, such as type 2 diabetes and stroke. These risk factors include low levels of HDL-C, or “good cholesterol,” high blood pressure, increased abdominal obesity, high triglyceride levels and high fasting glucose levels.
Specifically, the study participants who ate one cup of blueberries per day significantly increased their “good cholesterol” levels. They also improved their endothelial function and reduced arterial stiffness – both of which are associated with a reduced risk of heart attack and stroke.
Insulin resistance, pulse wave velocity, blood pressure, and other lipid levels (including total cholesterol) were unaffected by any of the interventions. There were also no observed clinical benefits from the intake of one-half cup of blueberries in this at-risk participant group.
Over a six-month period, 115 participants (78 men and 37 women) between the ages of 50 and 75 with metabolic syndrome, were randomly assigned to receive one of three daily treatments: 26g freeze-dried blueberries (the equivalent of one US cup/d); 13g freeze-dried blueberries (the equivalent of one-half US cup/d); or a placebo powder matched for color, taste and consistency. All study subjects were instructed to limit intake of other anthocyanin (the main natural flavonoid constituent present in blueberries) containing foods to one portion per week and other foods known to modify vascular function. Participants also refrained from blueberry intake beyond the assigned daily treatments.
These findings are particularly important for those of us here in the U.S. – more than one-third of our population (34.2%) is living with metabolic syndrome. It’s important to find ways, big and small, to live more healthfully, and this research joins the growing body of scientific evidence demonstrating that blueberries can be part of eating patterns that improve heart health.
“While the conclusions drawn are from a single study that cannot be generalized to all populations, the data add weight to the evidence that a dietary intervention with a realistic serving of blueberries may be an effective strategy to decrease important risk factors for heart disease”, says Aedin Cassidy, Ph.D., Head of Nutrition & Preventive Medicine Department and Chair of Nutritional Biochemistry at Norwich Medical School, University of East Anglia and the study’s lead investigator.
Of course, we’ve long known that blueberries have a lot to offer in the nutrition department. At just 80 calories per serving, they contain only naturally occurring sugars, are low in fat and sodium, and contribute essential nutrients, including vitamin C, vitamin K, manganese, and dietary fiber. Even better: they do it all while tasting great. It’s always a good idea to grab a bluetiful bunch to share with your favorite bunch.
The research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition was funded by the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council (USHBC). The USHBC had no role in study design, data collection, data analysis, data interpretation, or writing of the study. Click here to learn more about blueberry nutrition research.
*Curtis PJ, van der Velpen W, Berends L, Jennings A, Feelisch M, Umpleby AM, Evans M, Fernandez BO, Meiss MS, Minnion M, Ptter J, Minihane AM, Kay CD, Rimm EB, Cassidy A. Blueberries improve biomarkers of cardiometabolic function in participants with metabolic syndrome—results from a 6-month, double-blind, randomized controlled trial. Am J Clin Nutr. 2019; 109(6):1535-1545.