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This story originally appeared on Cookinglight.com by Lauren Wicks.
Heart Disease is the number one cause of death in America, killing almost 650,000 per year. Stroke is another leading cause, with almost 150,00 deaths each year. There are plenty of heart-healthy and anti-inflammatory diets out there to help manage and prevent these issues, but a recent study claims that one food might stand above the rest in protecting your heart.
Related: Our Top 15 Heart-Healthy Foods
This study, conducted by researchers at King’s College London, found eating 200 grams (about one cup) of blueberries every day can reduce one’s risk for cardiovascular disease by 20 percent. Those who ate 200 grams of blueberries daily were also able to reduce their systolic blood pressure, and the positive effects were similar to those seen in people taking blood pressure medications.
Researchers took 40 healthy participants and gave them a daily drink with 200g blueberries, or a control drink with either fiber, vitamins, or minerals for one month. During this time, participants’ blood pressure and flow-mediated dilation were monitored. Flow-mediated dilation is a biomarker for cardiov and occurs when the brachial artery widens as blood flow increases.
No impact on heart health was found in those who consumed the control drinks daily, but those who consumed the blueberry drink experienced significant health benefits just one month later. Blood vessel function was improved within hours of drinking the blueberry beverage and improvements were sustained one month later. Blood clotting and blood pressure regulation were also improved.
Researchers noted these heart-health benefits come from anthocyanins, or the phytochemical responsible for making blueberries blue (and other fruits red or purple). Based on the evidence from control groups, it wasn’t the fiber, vitamins, or minerals impacting the heart, but rather the power of anthocyanins.
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"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,” said lead researcher Dr. Ana Rodriguez-Mateos.
The bottom line: This is a small study, and more evidence is required before the findings can become true health claims. However, this study did have some incredible impacts on its few participants and adding a cup of blueberries to your morning smoothie or bowl of oats certainly couldn’t hurt. Blueberries have shown to prevent heart disease, among other chronic diseases, and even boost your brain health!
This article originally appeared on Cookinglight.com