Researchers found that compared to people who never ate blueberries, those who had at least one serving a week lowered their risk of developing high blood pressure by 10 per cent.
The protective effect of blueberries is attributed to bioactive compounds called anthocyanins. Anthocyanins belong to a family of compounds called flavonoids which are also plentiful in blackcurrants, raspberries, eggplant, and blood orange juice .
To investigate, the researchers studied 134,000 healthy women and 47,000 healthy men over a period of 14 years. None of the participants had hypertension at the start of the study.
Subjects were asked to complete health questionnaires every two years and their dietary intake was assessed every four years. Incidence of newly diagnosed hypertension during the 14-year period was then related to consumption of various different flavonoids.
Foods identified tea as the main source of flavonoids were apples, orange juice, blueberries, red wine and strawberries.
When the researchers looked at the relation between individual subclasses of flavonoids and hypertension, they found that participants consuming the most anthocyanins (found mainly in blueberries and strawberries) were less likely to be diagnosed with hypertension than those consuming the least. The protective effect was strongest for blueberries. The effect was even stronger in people under 60 years of age.
The findings are due to be published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
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