Want to lower your blood pressure? Wild blueberries might help

  • A new study has found that people who consume blueberries may be able to lower their blood pressure.
  • Drinkers of wild blueberry powder also saw improvements in their blood vessel function.
  • Other studies have also found that eating blueberries — or compounds in blueberries known as anthocyanins — improves vascular function.

A cup of wild blueberries is not only a tasty, low-calorie snack, but it also lowers blood pressure, improves blood vessel function and provides a little brain boost, suggests a new study.

People who consumed a drink made from freeze-dried wild blueberry powder once a day for 12 weeks saw a reduction in their systolic blood pressure of 3.59 millimeters of mercury (mmHg), compared with people who drank a drink based on a placebo powder.

Drinkers of wild blueberry powder also saw improvements in their blood vessel function, as measured by flow-mediated expansion.

The study was published March 25 in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

An earlier study by the same researchers at King’s College London in the UK found similar changes in healthy middle-aged males who consumed a drink made from wild blueberry powder.

Other studies have also found that eating blueberries — or compounds in blueberries known as anthocyanins — improves vascular function.

These types of changes are good for the entire cardiovascular system.

“Any reduction in blood pressure reduces the incidence of stroke, heart attack and other end-organ damage,” Dr. Robert Pilchik, a cardiologist at Manhattan Cardiology in New York City, who was not involved in the new study.

He pointed to a recent study that found that for every 5mmHg decrease in systolic blood pressure, a person’s risk of cardiovascular events such as heart attack or stroke decreased by 10%.

Additionally, Pilchik said the new study showed that the decrease in systolic blood pressure was due to improvements in blood vessels’ ability to dilate (widen) and in endothelial function. The endothelium is a thin membrane that lines the inside of blood vessels and the heart.

“This improvement in endothelial function in and of itself is protective against atherosclerosis,” he said.

Atherosclerosis, the buildup of fats, cholesterol and other substances on the inside walls of your arteries, can increase your risk of heart attack, stroke, vascular dementia and other conditions.

The new study, however, found no significant differences between the two groups for arterial stiffness, diastolic blood pressure or blood lipids — risk factors for cardiovascular disease — or cerebral blood flow.

Lower cerebral blood flow – blood flow in the brain – is connected at an increased risk of dementia.

This randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study included 61 healthy older adults aged 65 to 80 years.

About half of the participants consumed a drink each day containing 26 grams of anthocyanin-rich freeze-dried wild blueberry powder, the equivalent of just under a cup of fresh blueberries.

The rest consumed a similar-tasting powder with no anthocyanins, but the same level of vitamin C.

Food studies sometimes use powdered foods to ensure more accurate measurements.

The study was funded by the Wild Blueberry Association of North America.

In the new study, the researchers also found that people who consumed a drink made from wild blueberry powder saw improvements in two tests of cognitive function: immediate word recall and an activity switch test.

However, there was no improvement in delayed word recall, compared with a previous one study using wild cranberry juice.

Dr. James E. Galvin, a professor at the University of Miami and director of the Comprehensive Center for Brain Health at UHealth – University of Miami Health System, cautioned that this is a small study. However, “the results suggest that powdered cranberries provided a significant benefit in memory recall,” he said.

“Although future studies are needed to replicate these findings,” he said, “this work is exciting because trials like this provide experimental confirmation of observational studies of dietary patterns.”

So what kind of impact would consuming a handful of blueberries each day have on a person’s risk of developing dementia?

Galvin said alone, this single change would have only a small effect.

However, “when combined with other lifestyle changes such as exercise, cognition, social engagement, mindfulness, exposure to green spaces, and other similar activities, it is likely to have a more powerful effect.” “, he has declared.

Together, diet and these other modifiable lifestyle factors make up a “Resilience index” developed by Galvin and his colleagues. This measure provides an estimate of a person’s risk of dementia and also suggests ways to reduce that risk through lifestyle changes.

Similarly, a 2020 relationship from the Hand commission on dementia identified 12 modifiable risk factors for dementia, including diet. Making changes to these risk factors could prevent or delay up to 40 percent of dementias, according to the report.

The dietary worksheet Galvin uses for her resilience studies includes a category for berries and nuts, which “contain rich polyphenols that may offer neuroprotective benefits,” she said.

Polyphenols are naturally occurring plant compounds found in fruits, vegetables, tea, chocolate, and other foods. These have been linked to a number of health benefits.

The authors of the new study believe that the vascular and brain benefits of wild blueberries are due to a specific type of polyphenol called anthocyanins.

Pilchik said that in addition to the benefits seen in this study, blueberries have other heart-related benefits.

Blueberries are a good source of soluble fiber, which binds cholesterol and removes it from the body, she said, and they’re also high in antioxidants, which can reduce inflammation in the body.

Both can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and events, Pilchik said.

And, of course: “Blueberries are delicious,” she added.

While blueberries certainly provide a health boost, many foods are equally high in polyphenols or other healthful compounds. Regularly eating a wide variety of foods ensures that you get the most health benefits.

The Mediterranean diet, which emphasizes eating fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy fats like olive oil, is a good example of a nutrient-rich, varied diet.

This diet has been proven to improve heart health AND reduce the risk of dementia.

“In studies of people with dementia, people who ate a Mediterranean-style diet had slower progression than people who ate a more typical American diet,” Galvin said.

“So, I believe there is a broad convergence of evidence to support the importance of diet in preventing dementia,” she said.

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