Wild blueberry fans, rejoice. New research shows that diets rich in the sweet, nutritious fruit can help stave off diabetes, as well as heart disease.
The study, published in the journal Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism, eating the equivalent of two cups a day of wild blueberries can improve or even prevent metabolic syndrome (MetS) — a group of high-risk conditions including obesity, high blood pressure, inflammation, glucose intolerance, and insulin resistance that increase the odds of developing cardiovascular problems and diabetes.
Klimis-Zacas, M.D., a professor of clinical nutrition at the University of Maine, noted blueberries are a rich source of phytochemicals called polyphenols, which have been reported by a growing number of studies to offer a variety of protective health benefits. The new findings, based on research involving laboratory rats, add to that evidence and suggest blueberries might even reduce the need for medication.
"MetS affects an estimated 37 percent of adults in the U.S.," said Klimis-Zacas. "We have previously documented the cardiovascular benefits of a polyphenol-rich wild blueberry in a rat model with impaired vascular health and high blood pressure. Our new findings show that these benefits extend to the obese Zucker rat, a widely used model resembling human MetS."
According to the study, wild blueberry consumption — about two cups per day — for 8 weeks was shown to regulate and improve the blood flow and blood pressure in rats with metabolic syndrome.
"Our recent findings reported elsewhere, documented that wild blueberries reduce chronic inflammation and improve the abnormal [cholesterol levels] and gene expression associated with the MetS," Klimis-Zacas said. He added that the new study shows "regular long-term wild blueberry diets may also help improve pathologies associated with the MetS."
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