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BLUBERRIES, OBESITY, DIABETES AND METABOLIC SYNDROME
Metabolic syndrome includes a constellation of health disorders that are associated with a high risk of developing diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Specific disorders that are associated with metabolic syndrome include high blood pressure, abnormal cholesterol and triglyceride levels in the blood, obesity, and diabetes (or pre-diabetes). In the United States, where obesity has become an epidemic, public health experts estimate that as much as 25 percent of the population currently meets the criteria for metabolic syndrome.
Excessive calorie intake, a sedentary lifestyle, obesity in the abdominal and waist areas (central, or visceral, obesity), genetic factors, and other adverse health risks are known to contribute to the development of metabolic syndrome. Therefore, both the prevention and treatment of metabolic syndrome are based upon exercise, a healthy low-fat and low-sugar/low-carb diet, and weight loss. A new prospective, randomized clinical research study suggests that consuming blueberries may also help to reduce some of the adverse health risks associated with metabolic syndrome.
In this study, which appears in the current issue of The Journal of Nutrition, 48 adults (44 females and 4 males) with metabolic syndrome were divided into two groups. One group, the experimental group, consumed 50 grams of freeze-dried blueberries per day (equivalent to 350 grams of fresh blueberries per day), in the form of a beverage, for a period of 8 weeks. The other group, the control group, consumed a placebo beverage that did not contain any blueberries (also for 8 weeks). Blood pressure checks and multiple blood tests were performed at both 4 weeks and 8 weeks into the study.
When comparing the two groups of patient volunteers, the patients in the blueberry group were found to have significantly greater decreases in their high blood pressure when compared to the control group. The level of oxidized LDL cholesterol in the blood, which is a form of the bad LDL cholesterol that can directly damage the lining of arteries throughout the body (atherosclerosis), was also significantly decreased in the blueberry group of patient volunteers. At the same time, there were no significant differences between the two groups of patient volunteers with respect to blood glucose (sugar) levels, triglyceride levels, or the levels of HDL (the good cholesterol) or LDL (the bad cholesterol) in the blood .
Therefore, while a brief period of a diet supplemented with blueberries did not reverse all of the abnormalities associated with metabolic syndrome, the consumption of the equivalent of about 350 grams of blueberries each day did appear to significantly improve at least two of the adverse health factors associated with this syndrome (i.e., high blood pressure and blood levels of oxidized LDL cholesterol). Based upon the intriguing findings of this small and short-duration study, patients with one or more health factors associated with metabolic syndrome might consider adding some blueberries to their daily diet, in addition to the standard treatment for this life-threatening disorder!
For more information on blueberries, and other sources of dietary polyphenols, as part of a cancer prevention lifestyle, watch for the publication of my new landmark evidence-based book, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race, in September of this year.
Disclaimer: As always, my advice to readers is to seek the advice of your physician before making any significant changes in medications, diet, or level of physical activity
Dr. Wascher is an oncologic surgeon, a professor of surgery, a cancer researcher, an oncology consultant, and a widely published author
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