MONDAY, Jan. 14 (HealthDay News) -- Eating three or more servings of blueberries and strawberries each week may help reduce a woman's risk of heart attack, a large new study suggests.
The study included nearly 94,000 young and middle-aged women who took part in the Nurses' Health Study II. The women completed questionnaires about their diet every four years for 18 years.
During the study period, 405 participants had heart attacks. Women who ate the most blueberries and strawberries were 32 percent less likely to have a heart attack, compared to women who ate berries once a month or less. This held true even among women who ate a diet rich in other fruits and vegetables.
This benefit was independent of other heart risk factors such as advancing age, high blood pressure, family history of heart attack, body mass index, exercise, smoking, and caffeine and alcohol intake. The findings appear online Jan. 14 in the journal Circulation.
The study can't say specifically what about the berries seemed to result in a lower risk of heart attack among these women, or that there was a direct cause-and-effect link between eating the berries and lowered heart attack risk. But blueberries and strawberries contain high levels of compounds that may help widen arteries, which counters plaque buildup, the researchers said. Heart attacks can occur when plaque blocks blood flow to the heart.
"Berries were the most commonly consumed sources of these substances in the U.S. diet, and they are one of the best sources of these powerful bioactive compounds," said study lead author Aedin Cassidy. "These substances, called anthocyanins -- a flavonoid -- are naturally present in red- and blue-colored fruits and vegetables, so they are also found in high amounts in cherries, grapes, eggplant, black currants, plums and other berries."
Men are likely to benefit from eating berries as we
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