You can almost picture the news editors and producers jumping on this story:
“Eating three or more servings of blueberries and strawberries per week may help women reduce their risk of a heart attack by as much as one-third,” according to a study published in the American Heart Association clinical journal in Circulation.
Wow. Worried about a heart attack because your diet is less than ideal, or your lifestyle is a little too sedentary?
Not to worry. Just pick up a bag of berries at the supermarket, and your worries are over.
At least that’s the way the media—including CBS News, National Public Radio and CNN--is spinning what is, in reality, a study with a ton of variables that clouds its conclusions.
And they are some stunning conclusions, if one takes them at face value.
Eating three servings a week—a serving being one-half cup—of blueberries or strawberries reduces cardiovascular risk, because these fruits (and lots of others, by the way) contain high levels of dietary flavonoids. These compounds help dilate arteries, counter the buildup of plaque and provide other benefits, according to the study, which was funded by Britain’s National Institutes of Health and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.
“Blueberries and strawberries can easily be incorporated into what women eat every week,” Eric Rimm, D.Sc., senior author and Associate Professor of Nutrition and Epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health, stated in an HSPH news release. “This simple dietary change could have a significant impact on prevention efforts.”
Scientists from Harvard and the UK’s University of East Anglia conducted a prospective study among 93,600 women ages 25 to 42 registered with the Nurses’ Health Study II. That’s obviously a huge sample size, but here’s the problem: The women completed questionnaires about their diet once every four years for 18 years (emphasis added). Heck, most adults can’t remember what they ate last night, much less four years ago. And dietary recall studies are notorious for overestimating the quantity of “good” foods eaten, while seriously low-balling the “bad” foods.
This study found that women who ate the most blueberries and strawberries had a 32% reduction in their risk of heart attack, compared with women who ate berries only once a month or less, and the findings were independent of such risk factors as age, high blood pressure, family history of heart attack, body mass, exercise, smoking, caffeine or alcohol intake.