Blueberries, peppers and onions ‘help keep middle-aged spread at bay’

Eating fruit and vegetables that contain high levels of flavonoids could help maintain a healthy weight, according to research from the University of East Anglia and Harvard University.

The study, which was published in the British Medical Journal, reveals that apples, pears, berries and peppers have the greatest effect in limiting weight gain.

The researchers looked at the dietary intake of 124,000 men and women from across the US, over a period of 24 years. Participants filled in a questionnaire every two years.

They found that consuming a small amounts of flavonoids correlated with maintaining a healthy weight. But many fruits provide high amounts of flavonoids — a single serving of blueberries contains up to 121 mg of anthocyanins. Vegetables such as onions and peppers are rich in flavonoids too.

The researchers claimed that choosing these fruits and vegetables could help people shed up to two pounds.

Professor Aedin Cassidy, from the Norwich Medical School, said: ‘Dietary flavonoids are natural compounds found in fruits and vegetables. This is the first large study to examine the associations between consumption of all flavonoids and weight gain in middle-aged and older adults.

‘Most adults gain weight as they age and even small increases in weight can have a substantial impact on risk of high blood pressure, developing heart disease, cancer or diabetes — so strategies to help individuals maintain a healthy weight in middle age are needed.

‘We found that an increased consumption of most flavonoids were associated with weight maintenance, and even a modest weight loss. The results were found to be consistent across men and women, and different ages.

‘However losing even small amounts of weight, or preventing weight gain, can improve health and these modest effects were seen with a small, readily achievable increase in intake of many of these fruits. Just a single portion of some of these fruits per day would have an important impact on health at a population level.’