Just eating one cup of blueberries or strawberries a week may help you lower your risk of high blood pressure.
Hypertension affects more than a third of American adults, but a simple lifestyle change — eating more darker-colored foods that contain natural compounds called anthocyanins — may cut your risk of developing it.
Anthocyanins — found mainly in fruits and vegetables such as blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, cranberries, black currants, eggplants and blood oranges — seem to protect against high blood pressure, according to a team of British and American nutritionists whose study appeared in the February issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
The researchers investigated the effect of different natural compounds called flavanoids — including anthocyanins — on the health of about 157,000 men and women, none of whom had hypertension at the start. They completed periodic health questionnaires, and their diets were assessed regularly over a period of 14 years.
Researchers found that people who ate the most foods with anthocyanins were 8 percent less likely to be diagnosed with hypertension over time than those who consumed the least. Those who ate at least one serving of blueberries a week were 10 percent less likely to develop high blood pressure compared with study participants who ate no blueberries.
Aedin Cassidy, a professor the School of Medicine, University of East Anglia, U.K., the study's lead author, says, "Anthocyanins are present in many of the foods we already like to eat and so they are easily incorporated into the diet."
He says these latest findings, part of a growing body of evidence that anthocyanins have a beneficial effect on blood flow and blood vessels, means "it is an excellent idea to consume more of them." Jonathan Murray, director of patient food and nutrition at the New York University Langone Medical Center, who was not involved in the research, agrees. "Although I'd like to see further research on the association between these foods and reduced hypertension, we should keep in mind that it can't hurt to eat blueberries and it might very well help. It's rather like an insurance policy."
Joan Rattner Heilman writes about health and consumer issues.