Heart exists as the vital organ in our body enabling our survival in this world and this makes it a favorite among researchers who come up with one research or the other that might prove to help humans safeguard it in a better way. Scientists primarily focus on the foods that might elevate heart health, lifestyle practices that generate more power to the heart, activities that keep it healthy and the absence of these that might trigger the occurrence of diseases and problems. Different foods have been recommended to safeguard our heart which include fruits and vegetables. Berries hold a special place in our hearts for their vibrant colors, attractiveness, taste and advantages. While the strawberry has become a common fruit in grocery shelves, blueberries are still a rarity in our supermarkets owing to their sharp pricing trends. These small berries are nutritious and tasty. Now, they have been proven to be good for the heart as well helpful in lowering the risk of heart disease.
A Clue to Bolt Metabolic Syndrome
A group of researchers were curious to know whether eating blueberries could alter the metabolic profile of people with metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is the name given to a group of risk factors such as high cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, high sugar levels, high triglyceride levels and a larger waistline which increase your risk of heart disease and other health problems such as diabetes and stroke. Metabolic syndrome is increasingly seen in people due to rise in obesity rates and it might even surpass smoking as the major risk factor for heart disease. Read more about metabolic syndrome which is becoming a global epidemic from the website www.firsteatright.com.
We know from previous studies that blueberries are good for reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease owing to the presence of a naturally occurring compound-anthocyanin. Anthocyanins belong to a group of chemicals called flavonoids and are found in the tissues including the stems, leaves, flowers, roots and fruits. These pigments can be in blue, purple, black or red color giving the fruit its respective color indeed. Studies previously have linked consuming anthocyanins to reduced mortality risks and decreased risk of cardiovascular disease. But what has remained untouched is whether eating blueberries could have any positive effect on those people who have already been diagnosed with a risk of developing heart problems.
Effect of Blueberries on People at an Increased Risk of Cardiovascular Disease
The research group studied 115 participants who were obese/overweigh and had metabolic syndrome. This was a long study that happened over a period of 6 months. The specialty here is that the researchers recommended the participants to consume a limited portion of the fruit instead of suggesting monumental quantities that are beyond practical application. The participants were split into three groups-the first group consumed 1 cup (150 grams) of freeze-dried powdered blueberries every day, the second group consumed ½ cup (75 grams) of freeze-dried powdered blueberries every day and the third group was the control group which was given a powder that looked just like blueberry powder but contained only fructose, dextrose and maltodextrin.
Biomarkers for insulin resistance, lipid status and vascular function was assessed at the start and end of the study. Results showed that the first group that consumed 150 grams of powdered blueberries daily experienced improvements in vascular functions and arterial stiffness and were at a 12-15% reduced risk of cardiovascular diseases. The surprise here is that no benefits were found in the second group-those who consumed 75 grams of powdered blueberries.
Researchers attributed the benefits to the presence of anthocyanins in blueberries. Anthocyanins are present in colorful produce such as carrots, red radish, plums, blackberries, raspberries and purple potatoes. The only trick here is that we need to consume at least one bowlful of blueberries to reap the benefits if we belong to the obese/overweight, metabolic syndrome-present population. Further studies are required to know the effect of this tiny fruit on other people as well.
You can either eat them raw or add them in your cereal, yogurt or smoothie. Including them in salads is also a great option apart from rarely indulging in a dessert flavored with your favorite blueberries.
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Dietitian & Nutritionist Dr. Nafeesa Imteyaz.