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Originally published October 4 2013

Berry intake helps overweight women have healthy hearts

by David Gutierrez, staff writer

(NaturalNews) A diet rich in berries can help mitigate the heart-damaging effects of being overweight, according to a study conducted by researchers from the University of Turku, Finland, and published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in August.

The researchers assigned 80 overweight women to consume four separate berry products on four separate occasions in a random order. The products were dried sea buckthorn berries, sea buckthorn oil, frozen bilberries and sea buckthorn phenolic ethanol extract mixed with maltodextrin.

All four berry products led to improvements in the metabolic profiles of all participants, whether they had a high or a low cardiometabolic risk at the beginning of the study. Among participants with high cardiovascular risk, dried sea buckthorn berries improved levels of triglycerides and VLDL cholesterol and its subclasses; sea buckthorn oil improved levels of intermediate-density lipoprotein (IDL) and LDL cholesterol and their subfractions; and frozen bilberries produced improvements in blood lipid and lipoprotein levels. The sea buckthorn phenolic ethanol extract mixed with maltodextrin led to improvements in triglyceride and VLDL levels in all participants, regardless of cardiovascular risk.

"Berry intake has overall metabolic effects, which depend on the cardiometabolic risk profile at baseline," the researchers concluded.

Berry consumption also protects the young

Another recent study, conducted by researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health and the University of East Anglia, England, and published in the journal Circulation, found that berry consumption during youth can help protect the heart as it ages.

The researchers analyzed data from 93,600 women between the ages of 25 and 42 who had been followed for 18 years as part of the Nurses' Health Study II. Participants had filled out a detailed diet survey every four years.

The researchers found that women who ate three or more servings of blueberries and strawberries every week had a 32 percent lower risk of heart attacks than women who only ate berries once a month or less. Although the women who ate more berries also had healthier diets than the women who ate less berries, the heart-protecting benefits of the berry diet remained strong even after the researchers controlled for this and other potential confounding factors, including obesity, high blood pressure, smoking, physical activity and family health history.

The study focused on blueberries and strawberries, not because those particular berries are healthiest, but because they are the most commonly eaten berries in the United States. All bright-colored berries are high in anthocyanins and other antioxidants that help protect the heart and other organs from cell damage, inflammation and the effects of aging.

"These foods can be readily incorporated into diets, and simple dietary changes could have an impact in reducing risk of heart disease in younger women," researcher Aedin Cassidy said. "This supports growing lab data showing that these compounds can help keep arteries healthy and flexible."

"The take-home lesson is that even if you are eating these early in life, you're getting benefits that last for life," said women and heart disease specialist Suzanne Steinbaum of Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, who was not involved in the study.

"When we're making choices in our 20s, we may think that a burger and fries is great, but the message is that there are alternatives that make a difference for the rest of your life. It is a powerful message that we can prevent cardiovascular disease by what we eat."

Another study, published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry in 2004, concluded that eating more berries is the single most cost-effective way to increase the amount of antioxidants in your diet.

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