Staying Healthy Newsletter - <em>In the news:</em> ‘Multis’ May Cut CVD Risk in Women: Blueberries Improve Artery Health
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In the news: ‘Multis’ May Cut CVD Risk in Women: Blueberries Improve Artery Health

Multi Linked to Lower CVD Mortality in Women

According to a 2013 Gallup poll, about half of Americans report regularly taking vitamin supplements. Using multivitamin and mineral supplements consistently appears to pay health dividends over time according to a new study (1) conducted by researchers at the National Institutes of Health’s Office of Dietary Supplements.

The research team analyzed data from the National Health and Nutrition Survey Exam (NHANES), looking at nearly 8,700 adults aged forty and older. The NHANES participants had no initial history of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and were followed for about 20 years.

When the investigators focused on how long multivitamin and minerals were used, they found a 35% reduction in risk of mortality from CVD among women supplementing for over 3-years compared to non-users.

This association held even after taking other factors into account that can affect CVD risk such as age, smoking, aspirin and alcohol use, blood lipids, blood pressure and HbA1c levels, a measure of blood sugar control.

The same relationship of multi-vitamin/ mineral use and risk of CVD death was not seen for men, which echoes the results of the Physician’s Health Study II (PHS II) – the only large-scale trial designed specifically to look at the long term effects of multi use on chronic disease in men. The PHS II reported a lower risk of cancer in multi users, although no CVD risk reduction.

Blueberries Serve Up Big Blood Pressure Benefits

When it comes to high blood pressure in the US, statistics are unsettling: 60% of Americans have hypertension or pre-hypertension (top number or systolic of 120-139 mm/Hg, diastolic of 80-89), which often leads to hypertension. That’s why new research (2) from Florida State University is welcome news.

The investigators report that daily blueberry consumption produced clinically significant reductions in both diastolic and systolic blood pressure of 5.1% and 6.3%, respectively, while improving the health of arteries in women with pre-hypertension and Stage 1 (mild) hypertension.

Of the 48 women randomly assigned to get 22 g of blueberry powder daily (equivalent to 1 cup of fresh berries) or placebo daily, those in the blueberry group had meaningful drops in blood pressure values at the end of 8 weeks. Those receiving placebo powder did not.

The blueberry consumers also had a reduction in arterial stiffness, which was not seen in placebo takers. When arteries stiffen and become less elastic, blood pressure tends to increase, especially systolic pressure.

Levels of nitric oxide, a potent dilator of vessels, increased over the course of the study only in the blueberry group. Nitric oxide relaxes blood vessel walls and lowers blood pressure. Deficits in the production or activity of nitric oxide can lead to dysfunction of the cells that line vessel walls, or endothelium, making arteries stiffer.

Along with other factors that can improve elevated blood pressure such as weight control, exercise, stress management, and moderating salt intake, adding blueberries may help prevent those with pre- or mild hypertension from developing full blown hypertension.

References

  1. Bailey R, et al. Multivitamin-Mineral use is associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease mortality among women in the United States. J Nutrition. Jan. 7, 2015. [Epub ahead of print].
  2. Johnson SA, et al. Daily blueberry consumption improves blood pressure and arterial stiffness in women with pre- and stage 1-hypertension: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. J Acad Nutr Diet. Jan 2, 2015. [Epub ahead of print].
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