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Effects of Superfoods on Risk Factors of Metabolic Syndrome: a Systematic Review of Human Intervention Trials.

van den Driessche JJ; Plat J; Mensink RP.
Food & Function. 9(4):1944-1966

Functional foods can be effective in the prevention of metabolic syndrome and subsequently the onset of cardiovascular diseases and type II diabetes mellitus. More recently, however, another term was introduced to describe foods with additional health benefits: "superfoods", for which, to date, no generally accepted definition exists. Nonetheless, their consumption might contribute to the prevention of metabolic syndrome, for example due to the presence of potentially bioactive compounds. This review provides an overview of controlled human intervention studies with foods described as "superfoods" and their effects on metabolic syndrome parameters. First, an Internet search was performed to identify foods described as superfoods. For these superfoods, controlled human intervention trials were identified until April 2017 investigating the effects of superfood consumption on metabolic syndrome parameters: waist circumference or BMI, blood pressure, or concentrations of HDL cholesterol, triacylglycerol or glucose. Seventeen superfoods were identified, including a total of 113 intervention trials: blueberries (8 studies), cranberries (8), goji berries (3), strawberries (7), chili peppers (3), garlic (21), ginger (10), chia seed (5), flaxseed (22), quinoa (1), cocoa (16), maca (1), spirulina (7), wheatgrass (1), acai berries (0), hemp seed (0) and bee pollen (0). Overall, only limited evidence was found for the effects of the foods described as superfoods on metabolic syndrome parameters, since results were not consistent or the number of controlled intervention trials was limited. The inconsistencies might have been related to intervention-related factors, such as duration or dose. Furthermore, conclusions may be different if other health benefits are considered.