Tallahassee, FL—A new study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics suggests that regular consumption of blueberries may play a role in reducing blood pressure and arterial stiffness, both of which are associated with cardiovascular disease. This particular study focused on post-menopausal women, who at even greater risk of cardiovascular disease after going through menopause, according to study leader Sarah A. Johnson, assistant director of the Center for Advancing Exercise and Nutrition Research on Aging at Florida State University. In the study, which took place over an eight-week period, 48 postmenopausal women with pre- and stage-1 hypertension were randomly assigned to receive either 22 grams of freeze-dried blueberry powder, which is equal to one cup of fresh blueberries or a placebo. Blood pressure, arterial stiffness, and select blood biomarkers were measured at baseline and the end of the study, with the subjects keeping their normal diet and exercise routines.

The results noted an overall positive shift in the blueberry group, with a 5.1% decrease in systolic blood pressure and 6.3% reduction in diastolic blood pressure. The blueberry group also experienced an average reduction of 6.5% in arterial stiffness as well as a 68% increase in nitric oxide in the blood, which is traditionally associated with the widening of blood vessels. This particular finding is important because narrowing blood vessels is a part of hypertension, and this change is what the study authors believe is behind the blood pressure drop. While previous studies have show positive effects of blueberry supplementation on cardiovascular risk factors, they all involved high levels of blueberry powder consumption, ranging from 50 to 250 grams. This study shows that smaller portions that can be more realistically included in meals share some of these positive effects.

Published in WholeFoods Magazine, March 2015(online 1/23/15)