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Jan 08, 2015 01:09 PM EST

Just 1 Cup of Blueberries Could Reduce Blood Pressure

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A regular consumption of just one cup of blueberries could reduce blood pressure and arterial stiffness, both of which are associated with cardiovascular disease.

Researchers from Florida State University found that regular consumption of blueberries could potentially delay the progression of prehypertension to hypertension, therefore reducing cardiovascular disease risk.

"Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the United States," researcher Sarah A. Johnson said in a statement. "Once women go through menopause, this puts them at an even greater risk for it. Our findings suggest that the addition of a single food, blueberries, to the diet may mitigate the negative cardiovascular effects that often occur as a result of menopause."

For the study, Johnson and a team of FSU nutrition and exercise scientists collected data from 48 postmenopausal women with pre- and stage-1 hypertension over an eight-week period. They were randomly assigned to receive either 22 grams of freeze-dried blueberry powder -- the equivalent to one cup of fresh blueberries -- or 22 grams of a placebo powder. Participants, meanwhile, continued their normal diet and exercise routines.

At the beginning of the study, the team took participants' blood pressure and measured their arterial stiffness and select blood biomarkers.

Women receiving the blueberry powder on average had a 7 mmHg (5.1 percent) decrease in systolic blood pressure, which is the top number in the blood pressure reading that measures the pressure in the arteries when the heart beats. They also saw a 5 mmHg (6.3 percent) reduction in diastolic blood pressure, or the bottom number measuring the pressure in the arteries between heartbeats.

Johnson said that future studies will consider other dosages of blueberries, longer intervention periods and other sample populations.

The findings are detailed in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

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