Need to reduce your blood pressure several notches? Eating a cup of blueberries a day could help.
That’s the conclusion of a small Florida State University study of postmenopausal women, ages 45 to 65, who ate the equivalent of a cup of blueberries a day for eight weeks. The women not only saw a modest improvement in their blood pressure readings, their arteries also showed improved flexibility, which also can help lower blood pressure.
Previous blueberry studies had found similar heart-healthy results, although those studies had involved consuming much larger quantities — up to 11 cups in one case. The Florida State researchers wanted to see if a more realistic amount would yield similar beneficial results.
In the study, 48 women with mildly elevated blood pressure were randomly assigned to one of two groups: one that ate freeze-dried blueberry powder (equal to about a cup of fresh berries) and the other that ate an identical-looking and -tasting placebo. At the start of the study, researchers measured the women’s blood pressure, arterial stiffness (the stiffer the arteries, the harder the heart has to work to pump blood through them) and certain blood biomarkers.
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After eight weeks, those that ate the berry powder saw a 5.1 percent drop in the systolic or top number in the blood pressure reading, and a 6.3 percent drop in the diastolic or bottom number. Additionally, the blueberry group saw a 6.5 percent decrease in arterial stiffness.
Researchers also found that the women’s blood contained 68.5 percent more nitric oxide, a natural compound that helps widen blood vessels and likely explains the drop in blood pressure, lead author Sarah A. Johnson, a postdoctoral researcher at Florida State, said in a statement. Beets and dark leafy greens, like spinach, are even better sources of nitric oxide, but not quite as tasty as blueberries on top of yogurt or oatmeal.
The research, which was published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, received funding from the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council.
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