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Health News Archive 312 - Blood Vessels
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Blueberries Strengthen Blood Vessels

Blueberries could strengthen blood vessels against oxidative stress that may lead to heart disease, says new research. The results of the new study, published in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, add to the other reports in the literature linking blueberries to lowering cholesterol, and protecting against cancer and neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's.

The scientists, led by Dorothy Klimis-Zacas from the University of Maine, investigated the effects of blueberries on functional and structural molecules in the walls of rat aortas.

Over a 13-week period a control group was fed a standard diet, while an intervention group received the standard diet supplemented with eight per cent powdered wild blueberry. The scientists focused on glycosaminoglycans (GAGs), carbohydrate molecules in the blood vessel walls that are directly or indirectly involved in a variety of functions, including lipoprotein metabolism, blood coagulation, and organization of the extracellular matrix.

“In this study we document for the first time that diets enriched with wild blueberries significantly alter the composition and structure of rat aorta at the glycosaminoglycan level,” wrote lead author Anastasia Kalea. Klimis-Zacas and her research team also found an increased level of a specific GAG called galactosaminoglycans (GalAGs). “It seems that the increased GalAG content in the blueberry-fed group (plus 67 per cent compared to control) may well be a protective factor,” they said. By maintaining higher levels of GalAGs the blood vessel walls are more resistant to oxidative stress that could lead to cardiovascular disease.

“Our investigation of the potential of natural antioxidants like those found in wild blueberries to combat the precursors to cardiovascular disease is part of a broader research movement to gain a better understanding of the role of diet in disease prevention,” said Klimis-Zacas.

“Dr Klimis-Zacas' work helps build the case for including phytonutrient-rich foods in the diet for good nutrition and disease prevention. Colorful foods like Wild Blueberries should be the cornerstone of a healthy diet,” said Susan Davis, nutrition advisor to the Wild Blueberry Association of North America.

According to the American Heart Association, 34.2 percent of Americans (70.1 million people) suffered from some form of CVD in 2002. The direct (from hospitalization, medication, care and so on) and indirect costs (from lost productivity) are estimated to cost the US$403 billion in 2006.

Source: Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry Vol 17, pp 109-116.

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