Heart attack risk lower among women with high anthocyanin intake

Heart attack risk lower among women with high anthocyanin intake January 18, 2013. The current issue of Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association reported the finding of a decrease in the risk of myocardial infarction in women with a high intake of anthocyanins—flavonoids that occur in significant amounts in such plant foods as blueberries and strawberries. "We have shown that even at an early age, eating more of these fruits may reduce risk of a heart attack later in life," remarked lead author Aedín Cassidy, PhD, who heads the Department of Nutrition at Norwich Medical School of the University of East Anglia in England.

The study included 93,600 women between the ages of 25 to 42 upon enrollment in the Nurses' Health Study II in 1989. Dietary questionnaires completed every four years beginning in 1991 provided information on the intake of anthocyanins, which include cyanidin, delphinidin, malvidin, pelargonidin, petunidin and peonidin. The participants were followed for 18 years, during which 405 heart attacks occurred.

Anthocyanin intake ranged from 2 to 35 milligrams per day. Among women whose intake of anthocyanins was among the top one-fifth of subjects, there was a 32 percent lower risk of heart attack in comparison with those whose intake was among the lowest fifth, and when those in the top one-tenth were compared with the lowest tenth, the risk was 47 percent lower. For each 15 milligram daily increase in anthocyanin intake, myocardial infarction risk was lowered by 17 percent.

When the researchers analyzed the intake of dietary sources of anthocyanin (blueberries and strawberries), participants who consumed at least three servings per week had a 34 percent lower heart attack risk compared to those who seldom consumed them. Onions consumed at least five times per week were also protective.

"Our findings suggest that bioactive compounds present in red and blue fruits and vegetables commonly consumed in the habitual diet may be associated with a reduced risk of myocardial infarction in young and middle-aged women," the authors conclude. " Further prospective studies, including studies with biomarkers of coronary heart disease risk to elucidate mechanisms, are needed to confirm these associations. Randomized trials focusing on commonly consumed anthocyanin-rich foods are also needed to examine dose-response effects and to be of long-enough duration to assess clinically relevant end points."

"Blueberries and strawberries can easily be incorporated into what women eat every week," noted senior author Eric Rimm, ScD, who is an Associate Professor of Nutrition and Epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health. "This simple dietary change could have a significant impact on prevention efforts."

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