Simply eating a cup of blueberries a day is enough to notably reduce blood pressure and arterial stiffness (cardiovascular disease associations), according to recent research from Florida State University.
To be specific — the new research found that daily consumption of freeze-dried blueberry powder over an eight-week period improved blood pressure and arterial stiffness in postmenopausal women with pre- and stage 1-hypertension.
“Our findings suggest that regular consumption of blueberries could potentially delay the progression of prehypertension to hypertension, therefore reducing cardiovascular disease risk,” explained Sarah A Johnson, a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Nutrition, Food and Exercise Sciences at Florida State University.
The motive behind this new research, according to Johnson, was to develop a better understanding of how specific foods (blueberries in this case) prevent and reverse “negative” health outcomes, as opposed to the study of specific isolated compounds — particularly in postmenopausal women.
“Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the United States,” she stated. “Once women go through menopause, this puts them at an even greater risk for it. Our findings suggest that the addition of a single food, blueberries, to the diet may mitigate the negative cardiovascular effects that often occur as a result of menopause.”
The research was performed via the monitoring (over an eight-week period) of 48 postmenopausal women with pre- and stage-1 hypertension — said women were randomly assigned to be allotted either 22 grams of “placebo” powder, or 22 grams of freeze-dried blueberry powder, to be consumed daily. Other than the addition of powder consumption participants carried on with their normal habits (diet, exercise, etc).
At the start of the study the researchers measured the blood pressure and the arterial stiffness — as well as as a number of other blood bio-markers — of the participants.
Here’s the findings in the researcher’s own words:
At the end of the eight weeks, participants receiving the blueberry powder on average had a 7 mmHg (5.1%) decrease in systolic blood pressure, which is the top number in the blood pressure reading that measures the pressure in the arteries when the heart beats. They also saw a 5 mmHg (6.3%) reduction in diastolic blood pressure, or the bottom number measuring the pressure in the arteries between heartbeats.
Additionally, participants in the blueberry-treated group had an average reduction of 97 cm/second (6.5%) in arterial stiffness. They also found that nitric oxide, a blood biomarker known to be involved in the widening of blood vessels, increased by 68.5%. That is important, Johnson said, because arterial stiffness and the narrowing of blood vessels are both a part of hypertension. This rise in nitric oxide helps explain the reductions in blood pressure.
The findings aren’t that surprising — previous research has shown that blueberries have “positive” effects on cardiovascular risk factors — but this is the first work to show that these effects will occur at “normal” levels of blueberry consumption, as opposed to very large quantities.
The researchers reportedly plan to explore the subject further in coming research — investigating various different dosing strategies, as well the effects of longer-term consumption.
Something worth noting of course, is that this research was funded by the US Highbush Blueberry Council — that said, most research out there currently tends to be funded by those that benefit economically from the findings. Pretty much any prescription-drug study out there is funded by those that receive economic benefits from the findings; that’s the nature of the scientific research field at this time — the thing to do, to my mind, is to take note of the research and its findings and test them yourself (if it’s worth the time).
The other advantage of this approach is of course that science and the use of the scientific method is focused on generalities, whereas your personal health is simply focused on what works for you — which may or may not be something in common with the population(s) used in various studies.
The new findings were recently published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.