Blueberries Won’t Save Your Life

Why a punnet of berries probably isn’t a life-saving medical intervention

Gideon M-K; Health Nerd


Pictured: Tasty, but less effective than heart medication Source: Pexels

Blueberries are a perennial favorite in the news cycle. Maybe it’s because they are one of the more expensive berries — and we all know more expensive means better for your health — or maybe it’s just that they taste great in a banana smoothie. Whatever the reason, hardly a week goes by without someone mentioning this photogenic fruit, with media sources claiming that blueberries can prevent cancer, make you lose weight, and of course prevent aging and make you live forever.

And, according to dozens of media organisations from around the world, they have now been proven to treat heart disease as effectively as “prescribed blood pressure pills”.

Pictured: Better than Lipitor, apparently Source: Pexels

Unfortunately, as is often the case, the story is a lot more complex than that. Blueberries may be a tasty — and relatively healthy — treat, and certainly can be part of a healthy diet.

But do they treat heart disease? The evidence suggests no.

Don’t go off your meds and start pounding punnets just yet.

The Science

The recent ‘study’ that has generated such sensationalist headlines is actually what’s known as a narrative review. Basically, the authors have compiled a series of experiments that they have been involved in to make a case for blueberries being helpful for heart disease. In many ways, it’s like an essay — they’ve collected a specific set of studies, and put them into order to tell a story.

Pictured: A narrative review, probably Source: Pexels

The researchers collected a series of 2 human and 1 animal study that looked at the effects of a specific type of molecule contained in blueberries — called anthocyanins — on flow-mediated vasodilation, and two studies that looked at people who drank a blueberry supplement equivalent to 200 grams of blueberries per day on the same outcome. They found that anthocyanins improved flow-mediated…