Richly coloured fruits like berries are a good source of anthocyanins - flavonoids which can aid weight management. [Photo: Bigstock]

Apples, pears and berries can keep you in the trim

9 February, 2016

Natural Health News — Eating fruits such as apples, pears, and berries could be a great way to maintain a healthy weight, a new study has found.

A team of nutritionists led by Harvard University looked at the dietary intake of seven different types flavonoid – natural compounds found in fruits and vegetables –and compared it with weight changes in a long-term study of 124,086 men and women in the US. They found that increased consumption of dietary flavonoids could be linked to less weight gain over time.

It’s not the first time flavonoids have been found to offer health benefits – for instance protection from heart disease and diabetes as well as weight control – but previous research has mostly focused on the flavonoids found in green tea as an aid to weight management.

What you need to know

» Flavonoids are antioxidant compounds found in abundance on fruit and vegetables.

» They are associated with a variety of health benefits including protecting us from heart disease and stroke

» A large review of flavonoid consumption has found that one type of flavonoid in particular – anthocyanins, which give red and purple berries their colour, could help with weight management over time.

» A second review found that anthocyanins can also help control cholesterol in overweight or obese individuals.

The participants in this study self-reported their weight, lifestyle habits, and diet over a period of 24 years, and the findings showed that those who ate more flavonoids gained less weight over the course of the study.

According to the results, published in the British Medical Journal, the greatest association was for the flavonoid subclasses of anthocyanins, flavonoid polymers, and flavonols. Each extra portion of particular fruits or vegetables per day in the study was linked to 0.07 to 0.10 kg (0.16 to 0.23 lbs) less weight gained over four-year intervals during the period.

Every little bit helps

It’s only a small reduction in weight, but as part of a healthy lifestyle it all adds up. And unlike some diet fads all it requires is adding some delicious fruit to your daily diet – particularly blueberries and strawberries which are rich sources of anthocyanins.

Tea, apples, orange juice, oranges, onions and red wine were other helpful flavonoid-rich foods looked at in the study

The authors acknowledge their research is only an observational study, but say optimising your choices of these kinds of healthy fruits and vegetables is important, especially when most of us already aren’t getting enough.

“Most Americans consume less than 1 cup (less than two servings) of fruits and less than 2 cups of vegetables daily, and juice and potatoes are major contributors to intake,” the authors write.

“Beyond increasing intake to current recommendations of two cups of fruit and 2.5 cups of vegetables per day, people may be able to maximise their health benefit by including optimal fruits and vegetables in their daily diets.”

As if to underline the results of this study another which reviewed several trials on the benefits of anthocyanins, published in the journal Nutrition found that this type of flavonoid could also decrease the bad cholesterol in individuals who are overweight or obese.