Harvard researchers have some good news for women who want to keep their hearts healthy. Just eating berries three times a week was found in a study of 93,600 women to lower the chances of heart attack by 34 percent, according to findings published yesterday in the journal Circulation.
According to researchers Eric B. Rimm, ScD and colleagues who looked at the women’s dietary and lifestyle habits every four years, eating at least 3 servings a week of strawberries or blueberries surpassed consuming other antioxidants - like those found in tea - for lowering heart risks.
The researchers found that levels of anthocyanins found in the berries correlated with the lower risk of heart attack or myocardial infarction (MI) among the women who were part of the Nurses’ Health Study II, which began in 1991.
The authors also noted younger women who ate more of the fruits were less likely to be smokers, consumed more fiber, were physically active and ate low-fat diets.
Even after the researchers adjusted for body mass index, physical activity, intake of saturated fat, use of alcohol and caffeine, family history of heart attack, high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol, berries were still linked to lower chance of heart attack.
The reason flavonoids in berries work so well to reduce MI risk is because they have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and blood vessel dilating properties.
If you don’t especially care for blueberries or strawberries, don’t be disheartened. The only reason they were studied is because they’re so widely consumed. The study authors say it’s likely other types of fruits with the dietary flavonoids have the same heart healthy benefits.
Though it’s never too late to adopt a healthy diet, the current investigation was done on young to middle-age women.
To add to the health benefits of fruits, researchers have found the little fruits can also help ward off dementia. The finding was published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, Jan., 2012.
The researchers hope women will get the message that eating berries could be good prevention for heart attack, especially because they’re so easy to incorporate into the diet, Rimm said in a press release. He also stresses the importance of eating a healthy diet early in life to prevent heart disease.
Cassidy A et al. "High anthocyanin intake is associated with a reduced risk of myocardial infarction in young and middle-aged women." Circulation 2013; DOI:10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.112.122408