Eating a few portions of berries and grapes each week can stop 'middle-aged spread', new study says

Berries and grapes are rich in nutrients called 'flavonoids' which help slow the rate at which the body absorbs fat

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Eating just a handful of berries or grapes a few times a week can help prevent the weight gain phenomenon known as “middle-aged spread”, a new study has said. 

A study of 124,000 people in the US over 24 years found those who ate regular portions of grapes, berries, cherries or apples typically put on no weight over two decades and some even got slimmer.

Researchers looked at three long-term studies which found that under normal circumstances adults typically gained one or two kilograms every four years during middle age but those who regularly ate foods which contained nutrients called “flavonoids” managed to stay slimmer. 

The biggest effect comes from the flavonoids found in blueberries, strawberries, cherries and grapes.

The nutrient is also found in smaller numbers in tea, apples and onions. 

Aedin Cassidy, senior author of the study at the University of East Anglia, told the Times: “People tend to put on weight as they get older. But we found that people who ate a few portions of flavonoid-rich fruits and vegetables a week maintained a healthy weight and even lost a little.” 

Dr Cassidy believes flavonoids slow the rate at which the body absorbs fat, increase its energy expenditure and help to keep gut bacteria healthy.

The study, published in the British Medical Journal,  does not claim flavonoids are fully responsible for keeping the weight off and Dr Cassidy said her team tried to account for participants' diet and how much exercise they did. 

But Naveed Sattar, professor of metabolic medicine at the University of Glasgow, warned the study should not be used as proof of a “cause-effect” relationship. 

He said: “In truth, individuals who eat more high-flavonoid foods have other habits which lead them to put on less weight . . . We should encourage more fruit and vegetables, but this is common sense.”