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The diet tweak that could help lower risk of cardiovascular disease

What is cardiovascular disease?

As part of the study, researchers from King’s College London and the University of Reading carried out a randomised, double blind, placebo-controlled trial involving 61 healthy men and women aged 65 to 80. They drank a beverage made with 26g of freeze-dried wild blueberry powder, the equivalent of around 178g whole berries. The other group drank a matching placebo.

Over 12 weeks it was found those who consumed the berry powder experienced better memory and improved accuracy on attention tasks, alongside lower blood pressure.

The blood pressure of the test group was lower than that of the placebo group and was also shown to have increased flow mediated dilation, which leads to a lower risk of cardiovascular disease.

Dr Ana Rodriguez-Mateos, Reader in Nutrition at the Department of Nutritional Sciences at King’s, said: “This study is the first of its kind and the results suggest that a daily intake of wild blueberries could help lower people’s risk of cardiovascular disease by lowering their blood pressure and improving blood vessel function.”

She added: We know from previous research that there are potential advantages from consuming blueberries, but this study went further by exploring how a daily and dietary achievable measure of blueberries could benefit our cognitive and cardiovascular health simultaneously in a healthy older population.

“We think the blue pigments in blueberries, the anthocyanins, which are a type of polyphenols also present in other foods such as strawberries, raspberries, red grapes and purple vegetables, are behind these effects as increases in their metabolites were seen in the urine of the volunteers after 12 weeks consumption.”

Professor Claire Williams, Chair of the Neuroscience Department for University of Reading, said: “It’s clear from this study that consuming wild blueberries is beneficial to cognitive function, as well as vascular health.

“The group who had the wild blueberry powder showed signs of better memory and greater mental flexibility when completing cognitive tasks. This is consistent with what we already know about the health benefits of anthocyanin-rich foods.

“It points to an important role of polyphenols in healthy ageing.”

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The study was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition and funded by the Wild Blueberry Association of North America.

But eating blueberries isn’t the only way to prevent cardiovascular disease.

The NHS recommends to prevent coronary heart disease, a type of cardiovascular disease, to eat an overall healthy, balanced diet.

It advises: “A low-fat, high-fibre diet is recommended, which should include plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables (5 portions a day) and whole grains.

“You should limit the amount of salt you eat to no more than 6g (0.2oz) a day as too much salt will increase your blood pressure. 6g of salt is about one teaspoonful.

“There are 2 types of fat: saturated and unsaturated. You should avoid food containing saturated fats, because these will increase the levels of bad cholesterol in your blood.”

The health body also advises you be more physically active, keep to a healthy weight and give up smoking.

Reducing your alcohol consumption, keeping your blood pressure under control and keeping diabetes under control is also recommended.

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