Blueberries improve biomarkers of cardiometabolic function in participants with metabolic syndrome-results from a 6-month, double-blind, randomized controlled trial

Peter J Curtis, Vera van der Velpen, Lindsey Berends, Amy Jennings, Martin Feelisch, A Margot Umpleby, Mark Evans, Bernadette O Fernandez, Mia S Meiss, Magdalena Minnion, John Potter, Anne-Marie Minihane, Colin D Kay, Eric B Rimm, Aedín Cassidy
Am J Clin Nutr . 2019 Jun 1;109(6):1535-1545.

Background: Anthocyanin-rich blueberry intake is associated with reduced type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk in prospective studies, although long-term randomized controlled trials (RCTs) have not been conducted in at-risk populations.

Objective: In the longest-duration RCT to date, we examined the effect of 6-mo blueberry intake on insulin resistance and cardiometabolic function in metabolic syndrome.

Methods: A double-blind, parallel RCT (n = 115; age 63 ± 7 y; 68% male; body mass index 31.2 ± 3.0 kg/m2) was conducted, which fed 2 dietarily achievable blueberry intakes [equivalent to 1/2 and 1 cup/d (75/150 g)] compared with matched placebo. Insulin resistance was assessed via the homeostasis model assessment of insulin resistance (primary endpoint) and confirmed by [6-6-2H2]-glucose-labeled, 2-step hyperinsulinemic clamp (n = 20). Clinically relevant cardiometabolic endpoints [including flow-mediated dilatation, augmentation index, lipoprotein status (by nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy), and nitric oxide (NO)-related metabolite assay] and anthocyanin metabolism were assessed.

Results: A daily intake of 1 cup of blueberries improved endothelial function (flow-mediated dilatation: +1.45%; 95% CI: 0.83%, 2.1%; P = 0.003), systemic arterial stiffness (augmentation index: -2.24%; 95% CI: -3.97%, -0.61%; P = 0.04) and attenuated cyclic guanosine monophosphate concentrations. In statin nonusers (n = 71), elevated high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (+0.08 mmol/L; P = 0.03), high-density lipoprotein particle density (+0.48n, ×10-6; P = 0.002) and apolipoprotein A-I (+0.05 g/L; P = 0.01) concentrations were observed following the 1-cup/d intervention. Treatment compliance was 94.1% (wrapper returns) and total concentrations of anthocyanin-derived phenolic acid metabolites significantly increased, dose-dependently, in serum and 24-h urine (P < 0.01 and P < 0.001, respectively). Insulin resistance, pulse wave velocity, blood pressure, NO, and overall plasma thiol status were unaffected. Likewise, a half cup per day had no effect on any biomarkers.

Conclusions: Despite insulin resistance remaining unchanged we show, to our knowledge, the first sustained improvements in vascular function, lipid status, and underlying NO bioactivity following 1 cup blueberries/d. With effect sizes predictive of 12-15% reductions in CVD risk, blueberries should be included in dietary strategies to reduce individual and population CVD risk. This study was registered at as NCT02035592.

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