Berries for breakfast: Polyphenol-rich foods may have cardioprotective effects, study suggests

By Adi Menayang

- Last updated on GMT

Getty Images / ipopba
Getty Images / ipopba

Related tags berries Polyphenols Cinnamon

Results from a study published yesterday on 13 healthy but overweight volunteers suggest that consumption of bilberries, lingonberries, and cinnamon for breakfast may offer heart health benefits.

Researchers from Brazil and Sweden investigated the effects of polyphenol-rich foods on human metabolic responses to a high-fat and high-caloric meal.

Their paper, published yesterday in the Journal of Functional Foods,​ outlined any changes they observed on biomarkers associated with cardiometabolic risk after participants consumed two types of berries (bilberry and lingonberry) and powdered cinnamon with a high-calorie/high-fat breakfast.

They found that consumption of both berries was linked to attenuated elevation of cholesterol in the blood caused by the breakfast. The bilberries also modulated the triacylglyceride response. Meanwhile, cinnamon powder was linked to reduced glycemic response, post-meal endotoxemia and C-reactive protein—all markers that suggest cardioprotective benefits.

The study was designed to allow the researchers to compare how the body reacted after eating the high-calorie/high-fat breakfast with the polyphenol-rich berries and spice, to how the body reacted after eating the same breakfast but without the berries and cinnamon.

The comparison led them to posit that “the present investigation shows that cinnamon and two types berries modify postprandial metabolic responses to a high fat and energy rich meal.”

Relevance for future research in the cardioprotective effects of food

With a relatively small sample size and use of single dose, the researchers emphasize that more research is needed to understand the cardioprotective role of polyphenols.

The use of a high-fat/high-energy meal acted as a “strong challenge for metabolic homeostatic mechanisms,” ​they argued, which was a sensitive way to detect potential attenuating effects of the polyphenol-rich foods.

“We thus suggest the use of [high-fat] meal challenges as a means to rapidly screen bioactive-rich foods for their ability to modulate cardiometabolic risk, a possibility that deserves additional investigation.”

Study details

Thirteen healthy, non-smoking volunteers participated in the study, recruited through advertisements in local newspapers and public bulletin boards. They were aged between 50 and 73 years old with a body mass index in the 24.9 – 29.9 range.

All participants visited clinics four times independently, each separated by six days. On Screening day, the BMI and fasting blood glucose were measured.

Before test days, participants consumed a defined dinner of spaghetti, tomato sauce, chicken, cheee, and soybean oil to standardize the influence of the previous meal on next day fasting glucose levels.

At each clinical visit, participants consumed a standard breakfast of 910 kcal with a fat contribution of 455 kcal, after which their BMI and fasting blood glucose were measured with a finger-tip capillary blood sample.

During some of their visits, the breakfast was supplemented with the berries and cinnamon, which means the participant’s next visit in six days will involve a meal without the berries and cinnamon to allow the researchers to compare the body’s reaction to the two meals.

Source: Journal of Functional Foods
Published online ahead of print,
“Effect of bilberries, lingonberries and cinnamon on cardiometabolic risk-associated markers following a hypercaloric-hyperlipidic breakfast”
Authors: Cibele Priscile Busch Furlan, et al.

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