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Berries Good for the Heart

Eating Moderate Amounts of Berries Every Day May Lower Blood Pressure and Raise Good Cholesterol, Study Shows
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Feb. 15, 2008 -- Eating berries may boost heart health.

So says a study backing up berries' status as a super food. The small Finnish study suggests that eating a moderate amount of berries may increase HDL (good) cholesterol and reduce blood pressure.

For the study, researchers recruited 72 middle-aged men and women with some risk factors for heart disease -- including mild hypertension (high blood pressure), elevated LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, and low HDL cholesterol.

Half of the volunteers ate two portions, totaling about 150 grams, of berries every day for eight weeks. The volunteers ate an assortment of berries either whole, pureed, or in juice form, including bilberries, lingonberries, black currants, strawberries, chokeberries, and raspberries.

After eight weeks, HDL cholesterol levels of the berry eaters increased an average of 5.2%. Systolic blood pressure (the top number on a blood pressure reading) decreased by an average of 1.5 points, but the greatest decrease was seen in those with the highest blood pressures initially. There was no change in diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number). It did not affect body weight.

Berries: Packed With Polyphenols

Fruits and vegetables are high in antioxidants, but berries contain particularly high levels of antioxidants known as polyphenols. The researchers estimate that the berry eaters in the study consumed about three times the amount of polyphenols as the nonberry eaters and had higher levels of polyphenols in their blood.

Other polyphenol-rich foods include chocolate, tea, and red wine, which also have been linked to lower heart disease risk.

The findings appear in the February issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

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