Tue, Mar 5th 2013 03:00 am
The berries contain relatively high levels of plant compounds called dietary flavonoids, which are found in a variety of foods including dark chocolate, grapes, red wine, blackberries and eggplant.
According to the study, dietary flavonoids may prevent heart disease by helping to dilate blood vessels and by countering the build-up of plaque which can cause blockages in the coronary arteries and, ultimately, heart attacks.
The researchers found that women who ate the most blueberries and strawberries had a 32 per cent reduction in their risk of heart attack compared to those whose intake was limited to once a month or less – regardless of whether they had an otherwise nutritious diet.
Professor Eric Rimm, whose findings appear in the journal Circulation, said: “Blueberries and strawberries can easily be incorporated into what women eat every week. This simple dietary change could have a significant impact on prevention efforts.”
Since these dietary flavonoids are very common in fruit and vegetables, it is likely that other foods will yield similar health benefits, he said.
The study included 93,600 women aged between 25 and 42.
“We have shown that even at an early age, eating more of these fruits may reduce risk of a heart attack later in life,” said Professor Aedín Cassidy, co-author of the study.
The findings were independent of risk factors such as age, high blood pressure, family history of heart attack, weight, exercise, smoking, caffeine or alcohol intake.