Three servings a week of berries can reduce risk of a heart attack in women by 32 percent
A new study finds that eating berries can reduce heart attack risk. Specifically, eating at least three servings per week of blueberries or strawberries can help women reduce their risk of a heart attack by a whopping 32 percent. The Harvard School of Public Health in the U.S. and the University of East Anglia in the U.K. conducted the study, analyzing the self-reported eating habits of 93,600 U.S. women ages 25 to 42.
Go Red For Women sat down with Dr. Eric Rimm, senior author of the study and associate professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health, to learn more.
Go Red For Women (GRFW): What makes berries so good for your heart?
Dr. Eric Rimm (DER): A class of flavonoids called anthocyanins make up the fruit’s protection from the outside. Anthocyanins give a fruit its color. There are studies that prove anthocyanins reduce blood pressure and we’ve found that they also work as an anti-inflammatory inside our arteries. They help protect the arterial wall so we develop less plaque, which helps protect our heart from damage.
GRFW: The study specifically says berries are helpful to young women. What about women over 50 years old?
DER: There are various types of heart attacks; a heart attack in a younger woman may be slightly different than that in an older woman. Since this study focused on women ages 25 to 42, we found berries to help that age group. That said, eating berries is protective for all ages and genders.
GRFW: Is there such a thing as eating too many berries?
DER: Well, financially it might be a challenge (laughs). But, really, I’m sure you would experience some gastrointestinal distress if you had too many berries, but that would be about it. Berries are metabolized quickly, so there really isn’t harm in eating a lot of them. Just make sure they are washed before consuming.
GRFW: Besides eating berries, what else should women take away from your study?
DER: I would guard women against thinking that berries are a magic bullet to fight heart disease. Combating cardiovascular disease effectively is done by maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly, eating right and not smoking. Berries can’t do it all, but they sure can help.
Blueberries and strawberries were part of this analysis simply because they are the most-eaten berries in the United States. It is possible that other foods could produce the same results.
Learn about the health benefits of chocolate also on Go Red For Women.