Blueberries protect heart health in people with metabolic syndrome

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Scientists from the University of East Anglia found that eating one cup of blueberries every day could help reduce heart disease risk in people with metabolic syndrome.

A metabolic syndrome is a group of conditions that together raise your risk of coronary heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and other serious health problems.

Metabolic syndrome is also called insulin resistance syndrome. You may have metabolic syndrome if you have three or more of the following conditions:

A large waistline, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, high blood triglycerides, and low high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C).

HDL-C is sometimes called good cholesterol. Blood cholesterol levels are important for heart health. “Good” HDL cholesterol can help remove “bad” LDL cholesterol from your blood vessels.

“Bad” LDL cholesterol can cause plaque buildup in your blood vessels.

Metabolic syndrome is common in the United States. About 1 in 3 adults have metabolic syndrome.

Blueberries are rich in anthocyaninand and their intake is linked to lower risks of type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Anthocyanins are a group of deep red, purple and blue pigments found in plants. They’re part of a larger category of plant-based chemicals called flavonoids.

In the current study, researchers wanted to examine whether eating blueberries improve heart function in people with metabolic syndrome.

They tested 115 patients aged 56 and older. These people ate 75 or 150 g of blueberries every day for 6 months.

The team examined their insulin resistance and other biomarkers for heart and metabolic health.

They found that a daily intake of 1 cup of blueberries improved blood vessel function, arterial stiffness, and lower cyclic guanosine monophosphate (cGMP) levels.

cGMP also relaxes smooth muscle tissues. In blood vessels, relaxation of vascular smooth muscles leads to vasodilation and increased blood flow.

In people who didn’t use statins to control their blood cholesterols, the team found their HDL-C or good cholesterol increased following the 1-cup/d blueberry intervention.

In addition, anthocyanin level was increased in people who ate blueberries. Insulin resistance and blood pressure were unaffected. Likewise, a half cup per day had no effect on any biomarkers.

Based on these findings, the team suggests that 1 cup of blueberries per day (150g/day) could provide long-term improvements in blood vessel function and cholesterol levels in people with metabolic syndrome.

They predict that this means 12-15% reductions in heart disease risk. Therefore, blueberries should be included in dietary methods to protect heart health in people with metabolic syndrome.

The research is published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition and was conducted by Peter Curtis et al.

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