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Berry pigments show heart health benefits

By Stephen Daniells , 05-Sep-2012

Berry pigments show heart health benefits

Increased intakes of anthocyanins – antioxidant pigments from fruit and vegetables – may reduce blood vessel hardening and improve overall heart health, says a new study.

Higher intakes of anthocyanins were linked to lower stiffness of the arteries and improved blood pressure, according to findings published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition .

“These results are of public health importance because intakes of flavonoids associated with these findings are easily achievable in the habitual diet and make a significant contribution to the knowledge base needed to refine the current, rather general, fruit and vegetable dietary recommendations,” wrote researchers from the University of East Anglia and King's College London.

The study is said to be the first cross-sectional study to investigate the potential benefits to artery health and blood pressure from flavonoids.

Health benefits

Anthocyanins a class of secondary plant metabolites called flavonoids, and they found in many fruits and berries. They are known for their properties as pigments and antioxidant properties.

The potential heart health benefits of anthocyanins have been reported previously. Recently published results from a new clinical trial from China indicated that supplements of anthocyanins may reduce levels of inflammatory compounds in people with high cholesterol levels.

According to findings published in Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases (doi: 10.1016/j.numecd.2012.06.005) 24 weeks of consuming 320 milligrams per day of anthocyanins were associated with reductions in inflammatory compounds like C-reactive protein (CRP) and soluble vascular cell adhesion molecule-1 (sVCAM-1) of 22% and 12%, respectively.

Study details

The new cross-sectional study analyzed data from 1,898 women with an average age of 46. Food frequency questionnaires were used to collect dietary data and to allow the researchers to calculate intakes of total flavonoids and the subclasses flavanones, anthocyanins, flavan-3-ols, polymers, flavonols, and flavones.

Results showed that the highest average intakes of anthocyanins were associated with significantly lower systolic blood pressure, while arterial pressure was also significantly improved.

In addition, higher flavone intakes were linked to improved pulse wave velocity, which is a measure of how stiff the arteries are.

“The intakes of anthocyanins associated with these findings could be incorporated into the diet by the consumption of 1–2 portions of berries daily and are, therefore, relevant for public health strategies to reduce cardiovascular disease risk,” wrote the researchers.

“The findings highlight the need for more intervention trials on anthocyanins and anthocyanin-rich foods for the prevention and management of CVD because there have been limited previous randomized controlled trials for this subclass.”

Source: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.3945/​ajcn.112.042036
“Higher anthocyanin intake is associated with lower arterial stiffness and central blood pressure in women”
Authors: A. Jennings, A.A. Welch, S.J. Fairweather-Tait, C. Kay, A-M. Minihane, P. Chowienczyk, B. Jiang, M. Cecelja, T. Spector, A. Macgregor, A. Cassidy

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