The cardiovascular diseases They are the leading cause of death in our country, especially among women. The figure is overwhelming: every eight minutes a Spaniard for this cause, according to data from the Society of Cardiology. The second cause of death in Spain is strokes, which are also not exclusive to old age. In recent years, the age barrier has been broken and they no longer understand age. The good news is that either of the two complications could be avoided just improving life habits.
Many factors influence the heart and brain health, but one of the most important is nutrition. To help reduce risk, we should choose diets that are low in fat, sugar, and salt; rich in vegetables, fruits, cereals and in which the meats are lean. Avoiding processed foods or foods high in trans fats can also help. And, according to new scientific evidence, there is a fruit of the forest that can become a great ally. We talk about the blueberries.
The study, published in the prestigious journal American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, is a pioneer in its content, since little was known about the cognitive and heart benefits of these tasty fruits. In addition, the work details What is the ideal amount of blueberries that we should eat per day?, something that had never been established scientifically. In essence, researchers at King’s College London’s School of Life Sciences and Medicine have determined that they can stimulate the brain, lower blood pressure and help improve cardiovascular health.
The randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial found that blueberry eaters had a better executive function, strengthened short-term memory and they had faster reaction times. In addition, they were better at immediately recalling lists of words and showed greater accuracy in changing words than subjects who did not consume them.
On the other hand, study participants who took a daily drink made from wild blueberry powder over 12 weeks they observed a 3.59 millimeters of mercury (mmHG) reduction in systolic blood pressure, and improved blood vessel function compared to individuals consuming a powdered placebo.
How many grams of blueberries should we eat a day?
The study involved 61 healthy London men and women, aged between 65 and 80. For 12 weeks, half of them took every day a drink containing 26 grams of freeze-dried wild blueberry powder, while the other half consumed a placebo with the same taste, appearance, macronutrients, fiber, and vitamin C.
And it is that, it is common for food studies to use powdered substances to carry out precision measurements. In order for us to get an idea and be able to transfer the results of the study to our daily lives, we must know that those 26 grams of powdered blueberries that the participants took each day were equivalent to 178 grams of whole blueberries. This translates to about 75-80 blueberries, as they vary in size.
The Dr. Ana Rodríguez-Mateoslead researcher, told Medical News Today that it is not necessary for the blueberries to be wild, as “there are other studies that have been done with other types of blueberries that show benefits in cognitive and vascular health.”
The secret of the blueberry: its blue color
Researchers believe that the beneficial effects of blueberries are due to its blue pigments called anthocyanins. Each daily dose of wild blueberry powder in the study contained 302 milligrams of anthocyanins. In contrast, the placebo drink did not contain any.
“Anthocyanins are a class of polyphenols,” Michelle Routhestein, a dietitian specializing in heart health who was not involved in this study, explains to the same outlet. “There are about 8,000 different types of polyphenols that provide benefits for health,” he added. “Some other types of foods that have beneficial polyphenols include green tea, broccoli, pears, and spices like turmeric and cinnamon.”
Specifically, anthocyanins they are also present in strawberries, raspberries, red grapes and purple vegetables. Dr. Rodríguez-Mateos points out that “there is some evidence of the health benefits of other foods rich in anthocyanins, and there is no reason to think that they will not work as well as blueberries, as long as the amount of anthocyanins provided by those foods food is sufficient, and that the anthocyanins are bioaccessible and bioavailable.
How does the study was realized
Dr. Rodríguez-Mateos and study co-author Dr. Claire Williams had been separately investigating the cognitive and cardiovascular benefits of blueberries, and had obtained similar results. So they decided to investigate the effects on the vascular and cognitive function simultaneously in a clinical study.
They were proposed measure cerebral blood flow, as other research has suggested that it may be a mechanism underlying the beneficial effects of polyphenols along with increased vascular blood flow. In addition, recent discoveries about the gut microbiota and the gut-brain axis led them to explore this relationship as well.
However, the mechanism underlying the beneficial effects of polyphenols is still not fully understood. One theory is that “metabolites of polyphenols can act as signaling moleculesacting through various cell signaling pathways, modulating the bioavailability of nitric oxide and different enzymes,” Rodríguez-Mateos said.
The researchers observed a increased anthocyanin metabolites in the urine of the participants after 12 weeks of study. For this reason, the doctor is sure that “the mechanism of action in the blood vessels depends on the endothelium and, therefore, is mediated by the nitric oxide pathway.”
Although the study found evidence that blueberries improved cerebral and vascular blood flow, found no differences in arterial stiffness or blood lipids between the people who ate the fruit and the placebo group. However, “when blood flow improves, both heart and brain health benefit,” says Routhenstein.
Regarding the role of the intestinal microbiota, Dr. Rodríguez-Mateos said that “a hypothesis that we proposed in our study is that polyphenols can act increasing the abundance of beneficial bacteria butyrate-producing cells and, therefore, butyrate production”. Although this needs to be confirmed in other studies.
Other foods good for the heart and brain
According to the American Heart Association, a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, healthy proteins, minimally processed foods, and a moderate intake of oil and salt promotes better cardiovascular and cognitive health. Recent research has indicated that a Mediterranean diet may be the optimal diet for preventing Alzheimer’s and improving heart health.
Routhenstein mentioned the benefits of “green vegetables, specifically spinach, Swiss chard and kale, which are rich in nitrates, which can help dilate arteries.” She added, “This helps improve blood flow and improve vascular, cardiac and cognitive function.”
According to Routhenstein, there are many other foods linked to cognitive health. “Omega-3 fats, such as wild salmon and sardinesare associated with better cognition due to their rich DHA content and potent anti-inflammatory properties,” he noted.
Besides, “Some studies suggest that unsaturated fats, Like omega-3s, they may also help reduce levels of beta-amyloid, a component in the development and progression of Alzheimer’s disease.”