By Helen Albert, Senior medwireNews Reporter
Regular consumption of anthocyanin-rich strawberries and blueberries may help prevent heart attacks in young women, suggest study findings.
"Blueberries and strawberries contain high levels of compounds that have cardiovascular benefits, and our study shows that women who ate at least three servings per week had fewer heart attacks," lead author Aedín Cassidy (University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK) commented in a press statement.
The researchers analyzed 18 years of follow-up data from 93,600 women, aged 25-42 years, enrolled in the Nurses' Health Study. Dietary information was collected using validated food-frequency questionnaires sent out every 4 years.
In total, 405 cases of myocardial infarction (MI), or heart attack, were reported over the follow-up period.
Writing in Circulation, co-author Eric Rimm (Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts, USA) and colleagues report that women who consumed the highest amount of anthocyanins (highest quintile) were 32% less likely to experience MI than those who consumed the lowest amount (lowest quintile) following adjustment for various confounders such as blood pressure, body mass, exercise, and smoking.
Focusing specifically on strawberry and blueberry consumption, a similar association was observed in that women who consumed more than three servings a week of these berries had a significant 34% reduced risk for MI compared with women who consumed less.
"Blueberries and strawberries were part of this analysis because they are the most-eaten berries in the United States," explained Cassidy. However, "it is possible that other fruit and vegetables could produce the same results."
Notably, adjustment for total fruit and vegetable intake did not significantly influence the results, suggesting that consumption of anthocyanin-rich fruit may provide additional cardiac benefits over fruits and vegetables in general.
Commenting to the press, Rimm suggested: "Blueberries and strawberries can easily be incorporated into what women eat every week. This simple dietary change could have a significant impact on prevention efforts."
The team concludes: "Further prospective studies, including studies with biomarkers of coronary heart disease risk to elucidate mechanisms, are needed to confirm these associations.
"Randomized trials focusing on commonly consumed anthocyanin-rich foods are also needed to examine dose-response effects and to be of long-enough duration to assess clinically relevant end points."
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