A study under the auspices of Dr. Eric Rimm, associate professor at the Harvard School of Public Health and Harvard Medical School, has linked berry consumption with improved heart health.

The discovery is based on data from 93,600 women, who, at ages 25 to 42, signed up for the Nurses’ Health Study. Over the course of 18 years, they reported how often they ate various kinds of food. Young women were chosen as they had a relatively low risk of heart attack. The findings are also likely to apply to men.

The study showed that women who ate the fewest blueberries and strawberries were at increased risk of heart attack. Those who ate the most were 34% less likely to have suffered a heart attack than were women who ate the least of these fruits.

However it is important to note that there appears to be a threshold as those who ate low amounts had the same risk level as those who ate none at all. According to Dr Rimm, the threshold is three or more servings of around 72 grams of blueberries or strawberries each week.

Blueberries and strawberries are especially rich in anthocyanins which lower blood pressure and make blood vessels more elastic.

Dr Rimm says that whereas he believes the benefits come from the anthocyanins, he is not sure. Therefore some anthocyanin supplement (if it exists) may not have the same effect as eating the fresh fruit.