Fruit & Vegetable Magazine

Features Fruit Production
Blueberries help fight artery hardening – study


September 29, 2010
By USDA-ARS

Topics

blueberries04September 29, 2010 –
Blueberries may help fight atherosclerosis, also known as hardening of the
arteries, according to results of a preliminary U.S. Department of Agriculture
(USDA)-funded study with laboratory mice. The research provides the first
direct evidence that blueberries can help prevent harmful plaques or lesions,
symptomatic of atherosclerosis, from increasing in size in arteries.

September 29, 2010 –
Blueberries may help fight atherosclerosis, also known as hardening of the
arteries, according to results of a preliminary U.S. Department of Agriculture
(USDA)
-funded study with laboratory mice. The research provides the first
direct evidence that blueberries can help prevent harmful plaques or lesions,
symptomatic of atherosclerosis, from increasing in size in arteries.

Principal investigator Xianli Wu,
based in Little Rock, Ark., with the USDA Agricultural Research Service
(ARS)
Arkansas
Children’s Nutrition Center
and with the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences,
led the investigation. The findings are reported in the current issue of the Journal of Nutrition.

Advertisment
blueberries04 
  

Atherosclerosis is the
leading cause of two forms of cardiovascular disease – heart attacks and
strokes. Cardiovascular disease is the number one killer of Americans.

The study compared the
size, or area, of atherosclerotic lesions in 30 young laboratory mice. Half of
the animals were fed diets spiked with freeze-dried blueberry powder for 20
weeks; the diet of the other mice did not contain the berry powder.

Lesion size, measured at
two sites on aorta (arteries leading from the heart), was 39 and 58 per cent
less than that of lesions in mice whose diet did not contain blueberry powder.

Earlier studies,
conducted elsewhere, have suggested that eating blueberries may help combat cardiovascular
disease. But direct evidence of that effect has never been presented
previously, according to Wu.

The blueberry-spiked
diet contained one per cent blueberry powder, the equivalent of about a
half-cup of fresh blueberries.

All mice in the investigation
were deficient in apolipoprotein-E, a trait that makes them highly susceptible
to forming atherosclerotic lesions and thus an excellent model for biomedical
and nutrition research.

Wu’s group wants to
determine the mechanism or mechanisms by which blueberries helped control
lesion size. For example, by boosting the activity of four antioxidant enzymes,
blueberries may have reduced the oxidative stress that is a known risk factor
for atherosclerosis.

In follow-up studies, Wu’s
group wants to determine whether eating blueberries in infancy, childhood and
young adulthood would help protect against onset and progression of
atherosclerosis in later years. Early prevention may be especially important in
light of the nation’s epidemic of childhood obesity.