50+ health * Healthy living

Blueberries can help fight hardening of arteries

Blueberries can help fight hardening of arteries May protect against heart attacks and strokes

Blueberries are gaining a reputation as the new superfood - for instance they have been linked to memory improvement, found to protect against bowel disease and fight the Hepatitis C virus. Now a new study has found evidence that blueberries could even help prevent the hardening of arteries - a leading cause of some types of heart attack and stroke.

Hardening of the arteries, known as atherosclerosis, results in the formation of plaques or lesions which ultimately impede the flow of blood around the body, resulting in heart attacks or strokes. Earlier studies suggested that eating blueberries may help combat cardiovascular disease, but until now there had been no proof of how this might happen.

Scientists at the University of Arkansas investigated the effects of feeding a group of mice with a diet rich in blueberries. These animals were compared with a control group of mice that did not receive any blueberries. All the mice were of a type that is particularly susceptible to forming atherosclerotic lesions.

Lesion size, measured at two sites on aorta (arteries leading from the heart), was 39 and 58 per cent lower in the mice who received the blueberries than in the control group.

The blueberry-spiked diet contained 1 percent blueberry powder, the equivalent of about a half-cup of fresh blueberries.

The next area for investigation is to try to work out exactly how the blueberry powder is causing the lesion reduction. Ultimately the scientists want to find out if eating blueberries in infancy, childhood and young adulthood would help protect against the onset and progression of atherosclerosis in later years.

The study is published in the Journal of Nutrition.

This article was published on Thu 30 September 2010

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