Harvard Women's Health Watch

In the journals: Berries might lower heart risks

A recent study in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association offers more evidence to bolster berries' health benefits. The study included 93,000 women (ages 25 to 42) who were enrolled in the Nurses' Health Study II. The women filled out dietary questionnaires every four years for 18 years. During that time, 405 of the women had a heart attack. After accounting for other factors that can contribute to heart risks, such as body mass index, smoking, and exercise, the researchers found that women who ate the most berries (three or more times per week) were 32% less likely to have a heart attack than those who ate berries once a month or less. The authors said pigments called anthocyanins in berries may reduce heart risks by widening arteries and preventing plaque from building up inside them. Because this study asked women about their dietary habits, rather than assigning them to eat varying amounts of berries, it could not determine exactly how much women would need to eat to see reductions in heart attacks and other measures of heart disease. Still, it does illustrate how a simple dietary change can contribute to real health improvements.

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