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Berries: Bursting with Benefits – Especially for Metabolic Syndrome


As a nurse, it is important to promote health. This means everything from post-operative education, to medication adherence, and even the importance of healthy lifestyles.

This includes promoting healthy eating and the prevention of disease… And beautiful, little berries are one way to achieve this.

Recently, you may have read the ‘Globesity Prevention: Eating Mindfully’ article on Ausmed. From this, and likely your own experiences in healthcare, it is evident that there is a need to promote healthy eating to prevent obesity-related diseases.

Could promoting the regular consumption of berries be one way for nurses to do this?

What are the Health Benefits of Regularly Eating Berries?

Well, speaking of obesity and related illnesses, berries are low-calorie (Basu et al. 2010) and associated with weight loss (McMillen 2016).

According to Pribis and Shukitt-Hale (2014), the benefits of regularly eating berries range from improved function of the immune health, cognitive health and cardiovascular health, to even preventing the reappearance of UTIs (urinary tract infections)!

Blueberries:

Patel (2014) highlights that blueberries have specific health profits such as a reduction in:

  • Microbial infection
  • Obesity
  • Retinal injury
  • Diabetes
  • Bone loss
  • Inflammation of the liver, heart and kidneys

Acai:

Acai is native to South America and has been growing in reputation due to its antioxidant content (Udani et al. 2011).

Some studies indicate that a decrease in ‘reactive oxygen species can assist in the normalisation of the metabolic pathways’ in metabolic syndrome (Udani et al. 2011).

Udani et al.’s (2011) uncontrolled pilot study showed that in overweight adults (BMI >25 and <30), metabolic disease risk factors were decreased by eating acai fruit pulp.

Significant findings (p<0.05) from eating acai (100g açai pulp twice daily for 1 month) included that when compared to baseline, at the end of the 30 day intervention: fasting blood glucose and insulin levels reduced; total cholesterol decreased; and, there was an improved ‘post-prandial increase in plasma glucose following the standardised meal’ (Udani et al. 2011).

health benefits of berries

Berry-nutritious! Daily consumption of acai pulp found fasting blood glucose and insulin levels reduced and total cholesterol decreased.

Why are Berries So Good For Us?

Berries are very moist and contain fibre (Basu et al. 2010). Moreover, as evident from Udani et al.’s acai pilot study, they contain antioxidants like Vitamin C and Vitamin E. Antioxidants, again as evident from Udani et al’s (2011) pilot study, appear to help normalise metabolic pathways.

Berries additionally have micronutrients within them such as folic acid, selenium, calcium, lutein, alpha carotene and beta carotene (Basu et al. 2010).

Health benefits are achieved by processes such as ‘upregulation of endothelial nitric oxide synthase, decreased activities of carbohydrate digestive enzymes, decreased oxidative stress, and inhibition of inflammatory gene expression and foam cell formation’ (Basu et al. 2010).

However, it is essential to beware of how berries are prepared or processed, as this can affect the nutrition (polyphenol and vitamins) of the fruit (e.g. pressing, pasteurising, drying) (Basu et al. 2010).

More About Metabolic Syndrome:

Firstly – what is metabolic syndrome, again?

Better Health (n.d.) state that metabolic syndrome is basically an umbrella term for diseases that occur simultaneously to heighten risks of heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

This means that metabolic syndrome includes obesity, hypertension, high blood triglycerides, insulin resistance and low levels of HDL choldesterol (Better Health n.d.).

Mayo Clinic (n. d.) additionally convey that metabolic syndrome involves high blood glucose levels, and excessive abdominal fat.

Of course, exercise is one way to prevent metabolic syndrome (Better Health n.d.), but healthy eating is essential too.

Ranasinghe et al.’s (2017) recent review outlines that populations in the Asia-Pacific region have had a ‘rapid increase’ in obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease. The researchers found that this area has a ‘significant epidemic’ of metabolic syndrome.

According the Ransinghe et al. (2017), about 20% of adults in most countries in the Asia-Pacific have metabolic syndrome! Thus, the researchers (Ranasinghe et al., 2017) expressed that there is a clear need for primary prevention to prevent further prevalence of metabolic syndrome, and to limit the mortality and morbidity associated with metabolic syndrome.

If Your Client Has or is at Risk of Metabolic Syndrome

Obviously, nurses should refer any clients that they are concerned about to the relevant health professional. Clients would also need thorough primary health promotion/intervention to educate them about appropriate lifestyle changes that need to occur to prevent them from acquiring disease or further complications from existing disease (Mayo Clinic Staff n.d.).

People with concerns can also contact their doctor, dietitian, a diabetes or a heart health expert.

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