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Antioxidants found in some berries may help protect against heart attack

By Linda Searing,

Heart Attack

Antioxidants in certain fruits may help protect the hearts of younger women

THE QUESTION Flavonoids, antioxidants that occur naturally in plants, have been shown to have heart-health benefits. Might those include protecting women from heart attacks?

THIS STUDY analyzed data on 93,600 women, 25 to 42 years old and healthy at the start of the study. Data on their food consumption were collected periodically for 18 years. In that time, 405 of the women had a heart attack; 86 percent of them were 55 or younger at the time of the attack. The more flavonoid-containing foods the women consumed, specifically blueberries and strawberries (which contain a type of flavonoid called anthocyanin), the less likely they were to have had a heart attack. Women who ate more than three servings a week of these fruits had a 34 percent lower risk for heart attack than those who ate them once a month or less. Consumption of fruits containing other types of flavonoids did not have this effect.

WHO MAY BE AFFECTED? Middle-age and younger women. More than a half-million U.S. women each year have a heart attack. Narrowing or blockage of the arteries that supply blood to the heart is the most common cause of heart attacks. About two-thirds of women who have a heart attack do not completely recover.

CAVEATS Whether the findings apply to older women and to men was not tested. Information on food consumption came from the women’s responses on questionnaires. Most anthocyanin consumption came from blueberries and strawberries, but the substance is also present in such foods as eggplant, blackberries and black currants.

FIND THIS STUDY Jan. 15 issue of Circulation.

LEARN MORE ABOUT women and heart disease at www.womenshealth.gov and www.cardiosmart.org.

— Linda Searing

The research described in Quick Study comes from credible, peer-reviewed journals. Nonetheless, conclusive evidence about a treatment's effectiveness is rarely found in a single study. Anyone considering changing or beginning treatment of any kind should consult with a physician.

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