Young and middle-aged women who consume large amounts of strawberries and blueberries are less prone to having a heart attack than women who avoid these fruits, a study conducted by UK and US scientists revealed.
For the purposes of the research, scientists from the University of East Anglia and the Harvard School of Public Health monitored the diets of 93,600 women aged between 25 and 42, who had applied to take part in the Nurses' Health Study II in the US. The women who participated in the research answered questions concerning their eating habits once in four years over an 18-year period.
During the course of the study, published in the journal Circulation, the researchers registered 405 heart attacks amongst the participants and established that women who had blueberries and strawberries three or more times a week were 32% less likely to suffer a heart attack than those whose intake of the berries was limited to once a month or less, even if they were on a diet containing huge amounts of other fruits and vegetables.
The scientists explained that the positive effect that strawberries and blueberries have on women's heart health was due to the high levels of dietary flavonoids they contain. These substances have a sub-class of flavonoids, known as anthocyanins, which help arteries to dilate and thus cope with the plaque build-up that can lead to heart attacks.
Anthocyanins can be also found in other red/blue coloured fruits and vegetables and in other foods as well, including blackcurrant, black grapes, eggplant, cranberries, raspberries, plums and cherries, the study's lead author, professor Aedin Cassidy, said.