Imagine how excited Big Pharma executives would be if they could come up with a drug that could slash women’s risk of heart attacks by one-third. To top it off, what if this prescription could be conveniently taken three times a week and — as an added bonus — what if the medicine tasted great and had no side effects? Drug makers would have doctors pushing these pills as a “miracle drug” and Big Pharma would rake in millions of dollars.
However, there’s no drug that can do all of the above — but there is a natural food prescription that appears to do what Big Pharma’s chemicals can’t. According to research just reported in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association, eating three or more servings of blueberries and strawberries per week appears to slash women’s risk of a heart attack by about one-third.
“We have shown that even at an early age, eating more of these fruits may reduce risk of a heart attack later in life,” Aedin Cassidy, Ph.D., lead author and head of the Department of Nutrition at Norwich Medical School of the University of East Anglia, said in a media statement.
The scientists behind the study, who are from the Harvard School of Public Health and the University of East Anglia in the UK, note there are high levels of naturally occurring compounds called dietary flavonoids in blueberries and strawberries. These flavonoids are also found in grapes and wine, blackberries, eggplant, and other fruits. According to the new research, berries contain a specific sub-class of flavonoids, called anthocyanins, which help keep arteries open, and may provide other cardiovascular benefits — including preventing the buildup of heart attack-causing plaque.
The researchers came up with their results by studying 93,600 women between the ages 25 to 42 who were registered with the Nurses’ Health Study II. The women filled out questionnaires about their diet every four years for 18 years and, during this time, 405 heart attacks occurred. It turns out that the women who ate the most blueberries and strawberries had a large reduction in their risk of heart attack, about 32 percent, compared to women who ate the berries once a month or less. The findings held up even when the research team looked at possible risk factors for heart attack — such as age, high blood pressure, family history of heart attack, body mass, exercise, smoking, caffeine or alcohol intake.
“Blueberries and strawberries can easily be incorporated into what women eat every week,” Eric Rimm D.Sc., senior author and Associate Professor of Nutrition and Epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health, said in a press statement. “This simple dietary change could have a significant impact on prevention efforts.”
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