(NaturalNews) Atherosclerosis is a disease marked by plaque in the arteries. Made up of fat, cholesterol, calcium, and other substances found in the blood, plaque hardens overtime not unlike concrete — and that narrows arteries and limits the flow of oxygen-rich blood throughout the body. The result can be potentially fatal strokes and heart attacks.
But now, for the first time, scientists have direct evidence that a side-effect free natural substance exists that can help prevent these harmful atherosclerotic plaques from increasing in size and narrowing arteries. What is this powerful hardening of the arteries fighter? Blueberries.
Principal investigator Xianli Wu, who works with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Arkansas Children’s Nutrition Center in Little Rock and with the University of Arkansas Center for Medical Sciences, led the new study which was just reported in the current issue of the Journal of Nutrition. Dr. Wu’s research team compared the size of atherosclerotic lesions in 30 young laboratory mice with this form of heart disease. These animals were deficient in apolipoprotein-E (which helps regulate fats in the body), making them highly susceptible to forming atherosclerotic lesions.
Half of the rodents were fed diets supplemented with freeze-dried blueberry powder for 20 weeks. The blueberry-spiked diet contained the equivalent of about a half-cup of fresh blueberries. The mice in the control group did not eat food containing the berry powder. At the end of the study, the plaques measured at two sites on the aorta (arteries leading from the heart) were 39 and 58 percent smaller in the mice who ate the blueberry powder compared to the plaque lesions in the animals whose diet did not contain blueberry powder.
Previous studies have suggested that eating blueberries may help prevent cardiovascular disease but this is the first direct evidence that something in the berries causes plaque in arteries to regress. Next, Dr. Wu’s group wants to figure out the mechanism or mechanisms by which blueberries help control lesion size. For example, according to a statement to the media, the scientists want to see if blueberries reduce oxidative stress, a known risk factor for atherosclerosis, by boosting the activity of antioxidant enzymes.
In future studies, Wu’s group plans to investigate whether eating blueberries in infancy, childhood and young adulthood will protect against the onset and progression of atherosclerosis in later years. As NaturalNews has reported previously, blueberries are turning out to be a true “super food” — with research showing they may prevent obesity, cancer and even boost memory