Are blackcurrants beneficial for the heart?

In 2004, an estimated 17.1 million people died from cardiovascular disease (CVD), mainly from heart disease and stroke.

This number is expected to increase to 23.6 million people in 2030. However, the increased consumption of fruits and vegetables has been associated with a decreased risk of CVD, most likely due to the abundance and variety of bioactive compounds present. As an alternative to pharmaceutical medications, consumption of diets rich in natural bioactive components and their contribution to maintaining or improving cardiovascular health has been a subject of considerable interest to researchers and consumers alike.

So are blackcurrants beneficial to heart health?

A study from Finland found that a diet rich in berries may boost levels of good cholesterol and improve blood pressure, indicating their potential benefits for heart health.

Consumption of bilberries, lingonberries, black currants and strawberries led to systolic blood pressure (BP) reductions of 7.3 mm HG, while levels of HDL (beneficial) cholesterol rose by over five per cent, according to the results of the trial published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

“We used a combination of different berries, instead of only one berry type, to ensure a high intake of various polyphenols and to minimize the intake of other bioactive components obtained from the individual berry types,” wrote lead author Iris Erlund.

“According to the intake and bioavailability data obtained in this study, polyphenols and vitamin C are the most likely berry constituents to exert effects in vivo after the consumption of berries,” she added.

The study adds to an ever-growing number of reports in the literature linking berry consumption to a range of health benefits, including lowering LDL (‘bad’) cholesterol levels, and protecting against cancer and neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s.

In addition to improvements in blood pressure, the researchers note that consumption of the berry-rich diet was associated with an 11 per cent inhibition of platelet function.

“The findings are important, because they may partly explain the CVD protective role of a diet rich in fruit and vegetables. Other types of studies are now warranted to identify the compounds and mechanisms that are responsible for the observed effects,” they concluded.

More recent heart health research

Research published in 2011 indicates that anthocyanins, found in high amounts in blackcurrants, seem to have a clear effect on proinflammatory markers of CVD. However, large-scale, long-term, human trials are needed to validate the amount of anthocyanins required to achieve “optimal” vascular health.

Additionally, a 2013 study on the effects of anthocyanins on cardiovascular risk factors and inflammation in pre-hypertensive men strengthens the evidence that anthocyanins may increase HDL (‘good’)-cholesterol levels, and this is demonstrated for the first time in prehypertensive and non-dyslipidemic men.

Yet again, blackcurrants really do seem to deliver a daily dose of goodness and may be beneficial in reducing CVD worldwide

  • Erlund, I., Koli, R., Alfthan, G., Marniemi, J., Puukka, P., Mustonen, P., … & Jula, A. (2008). Favorable effects of berry consumption on platelet function, blood pressure, and HDL cholesterol. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 87(2), 323-331.
  • Gopalan, A., Reuben, S. C., Ahmed, S., Darvesh, A. S., Hohmann, J., & Bishayee, A. (2012). The health benefits of blackcurrants. Food & function,3(8), 795-809.
  • Hassellund, S. S., Flaa, A., Kjeldsen, S. E., Seljeflot, I., Karlsen, A., Erlund, I., & Rostrup, M. (2013). Effects of anthocyanins on cardiovascular risk factors and inflammation in pre-hypertensive men: a double-blind randomized placebo-controlled crossover study. Journal of human hypertension, 27(2), 100-106.
  • Wallace, T. C. (2011). Anthocyanins in cardiovascular disease. Advances in Nutrition: An International Review Journal, 2(1), 1-7.