Study Suggests Strawberries, Blueberries Protect Women's Heart Health

Patient Expert

As I've gotten older, I've really started thinking of food as medicine - and I hope you have, too Increasingly, when I think about the issues related to both menopause and aging, I look to my diet to see what needs to be tweaked. Having a hot flash? In my case, I've found that not drinking beer or vodka seems to cause those pesky annoyances to go away. And then there are other foods that researchers are encouraging us to add to our diets to support our health.

Take blueberries and strawberries, for instance. Researchers have found that eating three or more servings of blueberries and strawberries weekly may help women lower their heart risk by as much as 33 percent.

More than 93,600 women between the ages of 25 and 42 who were part of the Nurses' Health Study II participated in this study. Researchers from Harvard School of Public School in Massachusetts and the University of East Anglia in the United Kingdom followed this group for a period of 18 years, asking the participants to complete a questionnaire on their diets every four years.

During the period of the study, 405 heart attackers were recorded. In their analysis, researchers found that the participants who consumed the most blueberries and strawberries had a 32 percent reduction in their heart attack risk compared to women who consumed berries once a month or less. This finding held even when compared to women who didn't eat a lot of berries, but who consumed a lot of other types of fruits and vegetables. These findings were independent of other risk factors, including age, high blood pressure, body mass, smoking, exercise, family history of heart attack, caffeine or alcohol intake.
"We have shown that even at an early age, eating more of these fruits may reduce risk of a heart attack later in life," Dr. AedÃn Cassidy, lead author and head of the Department of Nutrition at Norwich Medical School of the University of East Anglia in Norwich, United Kingdom, was quoted as saying in an American Heart Association news release.

So why are these fruits so good for you? These fruits have high levels of anthocyanins , sub-class of flavonoids that are believed to help dilate arteries, slow plaque buildup and offer other cardiovascular benefits.   These two fruits also offer up other important health benefits.


The George Mateljan Foundation, a non-profit foundation with no commercial interests or advertising, noted that this fruit is one to the top 50 antioxidant sources.   It's considered the fourth best source among all fruits, behind only blackberries, cranberries and raspberries. And strawberries came   out in third place (behind blackberries and walnuts) among all U.S. foods (which include spices, seasonings, fruits and vegetables.

And interestingly, researchers have found that the blood sugar spikes caused by eating too much table sugar can be reduced by simultaneous consumption of sugar, which is important news for people with type 2 diabetes as well as people who want to maintain healthy blood sugar levels.


This fruit is the second highest in popularity in the U.S. after strawberries.   The George Mateljan Foundation notes that studies on blueberries' antioxidants have shown evidence that they can help improve memory.

Blueberries also are considered low in the glycemic index and also have a favorable impact on blood sugar regulation in people who have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. One study found that people who consumed at least three servings of fruits that were low glycemic index saw their regulation of blood sugar significantly improve over a three-month period.

Both of these fruits are readily available at most supermarkets. One serving of blueberries or strawberries is considered to be equal to approximately one cup. "Blueberries and strawberries can easily be incorporated into what women eat every week," said Eric Rimm D.Sc., senior author and Associate Professor of Nutrition and Epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, Mass. "This simple dietary change could have a significant impact on prevention efforts." The good news is that blueberries can be frozen without doing damage to their antioxidants, so you can always pull a bag of blueberries out of the supermarket's frozen foods section. However, strawberries have been found to be surprisingly perishable.   The George Mateljan Foundation notes that studies have found that two day is the maximum time to store strawberries before the fruit will have major loss of vitamin C and polypnehol antioxidants.

So the good news - make these berries a regular part of your diet and you can really be assisting your health. It's always good to find positive research on foods that we enjoy - and can benefit from.

Primary Sources for This Sharepost:

American Heart Association. (2013). Strawberries, blueberries may cut heart attack risk in women.

George Mateljan Foundation. (nd.). Blueberries.

George Mateljan Foundation. (nd.). Strawberries.