By NICHOLAS BAKALAR
Young women who eat plenty of blueberries and strawberries may have a reduced risk of heart attack, a new study has found.
The reason, researchers believe, is that those fruits, like other red and blue fruits and vegetables, have high concentrations of anthocyanin, a flavonoid that may help lower blood pressure and improve blood vessel function.
Beginning in 1991, researchers at Harvard tracked more than 100,000 women ages 25 to 42 with food-frequency questionnaires every four years through 2009. They recorded 405 fatal and nonfatal heart attacks in them over the period. The study was published last week in the journal Circulation.
After adjusting for many dietary, behavioral and physiological risk factors, the scientists found that compared with those below the 20th percentile in anthocyanin intake, those above the 80th percentile were 32 percent less likely to have a heart attack. Other flavonoids were not significantly associated with reduced risk.
Women who ate more than three servings of blueberries or strawberries a week — the most common anthocyanin-rich foods consumed — had a 34 percent lower risk than those who ate less.
“This is not a magic bullet,” said the lead author, Eric B. Rimm, an associate professor of epidemiology and nutrition at Harvard. “Blueberries and strawberries stand out among health foods, but there’s a lot we know about healthy diet, and this is just one component of that.”