Eating foods rich in anthocyanins, such as blueberries and strawberries, may reduce the risk for heart attack in women, according to a new study.
Anthocyanins, which are antioxidant compounds called flavonoids, are the pigments many plants produce in order to attract the birds and insects necessary for the dispersion of their seeds and pollination. Blueberries have high levels of anthocyanins and thus high antioxidant potential. Lowbush (wild) blueberries have higher levels of certain antioxidant compounds than highbush varieties. Strawberries are also rich in anthocyanins and other flavonoids.
In a new study, researchers analyzed data on 93,600 women 25-42 years-old from the Nurses' Health Study II to assess the potential relationship between the intake of anthocyanins and other flavonoids with the risk of heart attack. Data on flavonoid intake was collected via questionnaires every four years.
Throughout the 18 year follow-up period, 405 heart attacks were reported. The researchers found that higher intake of anthocyanins was related to a decreased risk of heart attack when compared to those with the lowest intake. Furthermore, when reviewing the effects of specific foods, eating a combination of blueberries and strawberries more than three times weekly was linked to a decreased risk of heart attack when compared to those eating less than three servings. The authors noted that a link between intake of other flavonoids and heart attack risk was lacking.
The authors concluded that eating foods rich in anthocyanins may reduce the risk of heart attack in women; however, additional research is needed to further evaluate these findings and to assess the potential effects of increasing intake of anthocyanin-rich foods.
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