Eating Blueberries May Improve Blood Pressure and Arterial Stiffness
Is there anything the blueberry isn’t good for? This tiny powerhouse was first brought to nutrition fame by the “Blueberry Man,” James Joseph, Ph.D., whose research credits blueberries with the potential to reverse age-related decline in brain function. Blueberries have since been linked to stronger bones, brighter moods, and even protection against radiation-induced free radical damage. According to a 2015 study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, eating just one cup of blueberries per day may also assist in lowering blood pressure.
In an eight-week, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial – the gold standard of study design – researchers from Florida State University recruited 48 postmenopausal women with pre- or stage 1-hypertension to consume either 22 grams of freeze-dried blueberry powder (which equates to one cup of fresh blueberries) or an equal amount of a placebo powder. The two different powders were similar in calories, fat, carbohydrates and taste. However, the blueberry powder naturally included additional nutrients, such as fiber, vitamin C, potassium, and anthocyanins and phenolics, powerful phytonutrients with health-promoting antioxidant properties. Participants were asked to take half of the powder mixed with water in the morning and drink the second half of the mixture in the evening.
Among the 40 women who completed the study, women on the blueberry regimen saw an average 5.1% drop in systolic blood pressure and a 6.3% decrease in diastolic blood pressure, while the women given the placebo had no significant blood pressure changes. Women receiving blueberries also showed significant 6.5% reduction in arterial stiffness, measured by brachial-ankle pulse wave velocity (baPWV), a technology that measures how fast a pulse wave travels through an arterial wall (the faster the wave, the stiffer the wall). Researchers propose these changes were in part thanks to increased levels of nitric oxide, which is produced in the inner layer of blood vessels and plays a role in blood pressure regulation and prevention of atherosclerosis and arterial stiffness.
Try adding two half-cup servings of blueberries to your day to help with keeping your blood pressure in check. Simply snack on blueberries plain or add them to yogurt, cereal, smoothies, or salads. For a more unique way to enjoy blueberries, try our Blueberry-Cranberry Chicken Salad.
Published April 1, 2015