(NaturalNews) Pigs experienced a significant reduction in cholesterol when fed a diet containing an amount of blueberries equivalent to only two cups in humans, in a study that researchers hope may be relevant to human health.
The study was conducted by researchers from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Charlottetown Veterinary Clinic, Alberta Children's Hospital, and the Canadian Forestry Service, and published in the British Journal of Nutrition.
Researchers conducted the experiment on pigs because they have similar blood pressure and heart rates to humans, and like us can develop diet-induced vascular disease, including atherosclerotic plaques in the aorta and carried to artery. They also have similar levels of LDL ("bad") cholesterol to humans.
The scientists fed pigs a plant-based diet, consisting of 70 percent barley, oats and soy, supplemented with 1, 2 or 4 percent blueberries. The 2 percent diet was the most effective at reducing cholesterol, bringing LDL levels down by 15 percent, HDL levels down by 8 percent, and total cholesterol levels down by 12 percent.
The fact that the 2 percent blueberry diet was equivalent to only two cups for humans and could be "reasonably achieved in the adult human diet ... suggests that the observed effect from blueberry supplementation could occur in healthy humans," the researchers wrote.
In another experiment, the researchers fed pigs a more high-fat diet, consisting of only 20 percent barley, oats and soy, plus 1.5 percent blueberries. In this diet, the blueberries had no effect on cholesterol levels. When extra cholesterol, salt and fructose were added to this diet, however, the animals' total cholesterol levels went down by 8 percent.
"In feeding trials, we found that blueberry supplementation reduced plasma cholesterol levels more effectively when the animals received a mostly plant-based diet than when they received a less heart-healthy diet," lead researcher Wilhelmina Kalt said. "The soy, oats and barley contained in these diets may have functioned synergistically with the blueberries to beneficially affect plasma lipids."