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Fish Oils and Blueberries Cut Cardio Risks
New studies add life-saving luster to two vital foods
2/5/2004By Craig Weatherby
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The good news about fish and berries just keeps on rolling in.

If you already eat either or both on a regular basis, you’ll feel very good about these new findings.

And if you don’t enjoy fish and berries often enough, think again—they may help your heart and your mood!

Fish oils ameliorate teen anger, and heart risks in adulthood
A study published earlier this month indicates that teens whose diets are high in fish or DHA—an omega-3 fatty acid found only in fish oils—enjoy lower hostility levels and a reduced risk of coronary artery disease.

As the authors noted, "Hostility has been shown to predict both the development and manifestation of coronary disease." (Iribarren C et al. 2004)

The researchers analyzed the diets and behavior of about 3,600 city-dwelling adolescent boys and girls (white and black).

The results showed that the teens who consumed higher levels of either DHA or fish rich in DHA displayed lower hostility rates than their fish-deprived peers.

These results make sense in the light of abundant prior research showing that omega-3 fatty acids have beneficial effects on depression, anxiety, impulsiveness, and aggression.

Cold-water fish species offer the highest levels of omega-3s (DHA and EPA)—and wild salmon contains more of them than most.

Blueberries found helpful to arteries and heart health
It seems that the blueberry-loving bears of Maine and Alaska are onto something big.

Last October, researchers reported evidence that wild blueberries can help reduce a key risk factor for cardiovascular disease (Klimis-Zacas D et al. 2003).

The study showed that the arteries of lab rats fed a diet high in wild blueberries remain more relaxed in response to stress hormones, compared with rats on otherwise identical berry-free diets.

The daily dose of blueberries given to the rats equates to about one and one-half cups of blueberries per day for humans.

As lead author Dorothy Klimis-Zacas, Ph.D., associate professor at the University of Maine said, "We know now that blueberries affect the contractile machinery of the artery."

The positive impact of the blueberry-rich diet applied to older rats as well, implying that it is never too late to benefit from adding blueberries to ones diet.

While the researchers did not identify the nutritional factors that kept arteries more relaxed, they hypothesized that blueberries’ high concentrations of antioxidants and trace minerals (e.g., manganese) are likely responsible.

After performing experiments on the inner surface of the artery, the authors concluded that the blueberry-rich diets probably produced their benefit by preserving the bio-availability of nitric oxide—a bodily chemical that helps to relax the arteries. 

  • Hamazaki T, Sawazaki S, Itomura M, Asaoka E, Nagao Y, Nishimura N, Yazawa K, Kuwamori T, Kobayashi M: The effect of docosahexaenoic acid on aggression in young adults. A placebo-controlled double-blind study. J Clin Invest 1996; 97: 1129-1133.
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