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Eat Your Heart Out—Strawberries May Offer Cardiovascular Benefits

Your favorite heart-shaped berry may be good for your cardiovascular system: A new study adds weight to evidence from a 2014 study, according to which eating 3 to 4 cups of strawberries daily was associated with reductions in LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and triglyceride levels in adults. The latest evidence comes from a randomized, double-blind study, published in the British Journal of Nutrition, which found that a freeze-dried powder made from strawberries may provide cardiovascular benefits in high-risk teenage boys. In the new study, 25 males ages 14 to 18 who were obese or overweight consumed a drink made with 50 grams of freeze-dried strawberry powder (equivalent to just over one pound of fresh strawberries) or a placebo powder daily during the first one-week phase. Drink assignments were then reversed for the second one-week phase: Those who had consumed the strawberry powder drink now consumed the placebo powder drink and vice versa. At the beginning and end of each trial phase, measures of blood vessel function, including blood nitrate and nitrite levels and reactive hyperaemia index (a measure of blood vessel responsiveness), were tested before the participants consumed their drinks (baseline) and about one hour afterwards. Here’s what the researchers found:

  • Blood nitrate and nitrite levels were higher one hour after taking the strawberry powder drink compared with the placebo powder drink.
  • At the end of each phase, average baseline nitrate and nitrite levels had not changed in either group; however, individuals who experienced an increase in baseline nitrate and nitrite levels also had increases in reactive hyperaemia indices compared to those whose baseline levels did not increase. This means their blood vessels were better able to return blood to body tissues after being closed off briefly.

This study supports strawberries’ good reputation when it comes to cardiovascular health, and suggests that individuals may respond differently to them. Future studies involving larger populations for longer periods of time will help scientists better understand strawberries’ relationship to blood vessel health. Meanwhile, you can enjoy eating strawberries knowing that, like all fruits, they are good for your overall health. They’re delicious in smoothies, jams, and pies, and are scrumptious atop granola or yogurt. Heart health never tasted so good!

Source: British Journal of Nutrition

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