Can blueberries actually help lower your blood pressure?
(Picture: Getty) We were told for years that blueberries are a ‘superfood’. More recently, the school of thought on this has shifted and most of us have arrived at the conclusion that ‘superfoods’ actually don’t exist. So, while blueberries may not actually have superpowers, new research suggests that regularly eating the brightly coloured fruit could have a positive impact on your heart health. A new study published in the Journal of Gerontology Series A has found that eating 200g of blueberries every day for a month can lower a healthy person’s blood pressure.
Researchers from King’s College London studied 40 healthy volunteers and monitored their blood and urine as well as their blood pressure and how well their arteries functioned. They found that the volunteers who had been given a drink containing the blueberries experienced effects on their blood vessel function just two hours after consuming the fruit. They also found that over the course of the month, their blood pressure was reduced by 5mmHg. A reduction that is similar to what is seen in studies using blood pressure lowering medication. The scientists think the results could be down to anthocyanins – which is the flavanoid in blueberries that give them their vivid blue colour. (Picture: Getty) ‘Although it is best to eat the whole blueberry to get the full benefit, our study finds that the majority of the effects can be explained by anthocyanins,’ explains lead researcher Dr. Ana Rodriguez-Mateos. ‘If the changes we saw in blood vessel function after eating blueberries every day could be sustained for a person’s whole life, it could reduce their risk of developing cardiovascular disease by up to 20%.’ So are blueberries the answer? Could they really hold the key to lowering your risk of heart disease? Or do we need to take a close look at the findings? We spoke to nutritionist Clarissa Lenherr to get a second opinion. ‘It is suggested that blueberries can help lower your blood pressure thanks to the flavonoid and antioxidant content,’ Clarissa tells Metro.co.uk. ‘However, the study looked at “40 healthy volunteers” and not at those already suffering with higher blood pressure or cardiovascular disease. ‘Therefore to understand the impact of blueberries on blood pressure of those with already high blood pressure measures, we need to look at other studies or wait until further research is published. ‘The study helps us understand the preventative measure of eating blueberries, but not the impact on reducing already high blood pressure levels. ‘Additionally, participants were given drinks containing blueberries for the one month period. The impact of eating those blueberries in their full and natural state could give us further health benefits. ‘Blueberries are delicious and naturally sweet, but ideally, we should be getting a rich and diverse balance of antioxidants and flavonoids from a range of fruits rather than fixating on one particular source.’ Foods that can lower your blood pressure According to Clarissa, the following foods are also great for heart health and will have a positive effect on your blood pressure.
Flaxseeds Consumption of flaxseeds has been linked to a reduction in blood pressure thanks to the mix of alpha linolenic acid, lignans, peptides and their fibre content. One study examined participants with pre-existing hypertension and reported that those consuming flaxseeds in a variety of forms, over a six-month period, actually saw a reduction in blood pressure compared to those taking a placebo. The study even showed that those on blood pressure lowering medication could benefit from further reductions by consuming flaxseeds. Cocoa is a rich source of polyphenols which are suggested to help reduce cardiovascular risk. Cocoa consumption has been demonstrated to lower blood pressure in healthy subjects and in patients with risk factors and hypertension. One meta-analysis suggested that dark chocolate and flavanol-rich cocoa were effective in reducing hypertension. However, this does depend on the quality of the cocoa beans and their manufacturing process, as the flavanols can be significantly reduced in the fermentation and roasting process. Additionally, commercial chocolate contains high levels of sugar and fat, which can impact the quality of the cocoa benefits, so we should be reaching for good quality cocoa and aiming for dark and 70% cocoa plus