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Berry Good News

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Alaska wild "berries" from the Innok...

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Is there a connection between eating berries and heart health?  Maybe so.  A study involving 72 middle-aged subjects used a variety of berries to assess whether components (primarily antioxidants) of the berries affected heart health parameters.

Half of the participants were randomly assigned to eat about 3.5 ounces of whole bilberries and 1.75 ounces of lingonberry nectar every other day.  On the alternative days, they consumed about 3.5 ounces of black currant-strawberry puree plus a raspberry-chokeberry juice.  I don’t know why these berries were chosen.  The other half of the participants were given control products or placebos.

The authors used a combination of berries to make sure that a high intake of polyphenols (antioxidant activity) and vitamin C (also an antioxidant was consumed.

After 8 weeks, the people in the berry group had significant reductions in blood pressure, especially those with high readings at the start.  One – third of the berry eaters with the highest blood pressure averaged a 7.3 mmHg reduction in systolic blood pressure.

Levels of HDL cholesterol, thought to protect against heart disease, increased 5.2% in the berry group, compared to just 0.6% in the placebo group.  Total cholesterol did not change.

Blood platelets play an important role in cardiovascular disease both in the development  of atherosclerosis and of acute clotting events. The berry group also saw favorable changes in platelet function with an 11% inhibition of platelet function (i.e. less clotting) compared to a 1.4% increase (in clotting) in the control group.

The findings are important, because they may partly explain the CVD-protective role of a diet rich in fruit and vegetables. As with most diet studies, other types of studies are now recommended to identify the compounds and mechanisms that are responsible for the observed effects.  In the meantime, berries (probably of all kinds) are a good bet.

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