Australian scientists believe a simple change of diet could help reduce the number of Australians killed each year by heart disease.
Coronary heart disease is the leading cause of death in Australia, with cardiovascular disease accounting for one in four of all deaths in Australia.
However, new Edith Cowan University (ECU) research has found that by eating just one cup of nitrate-rich vegetables each day people can significantly reduce their risk of heart disease.
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The study investigated whether people who regularly ate higher quantities of nitrate-rich vegetables, such as leafy greens and beetroot, had lower blood pressure, and it also examined whether these same people were less likely to be diagnosed with heart disease many years later.
Researchers examined data from more than 50,000 people residing in Denmark taking part in the Danish Diet, Cancer and Health Study over a 23-year period.
They found that people who consumed the most nitrate-rich vegetables had lower blood pressure and between 12-26 per cent lower risk of heart disease.
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Lead researcher Dr Catherine Bondonno from ECU’s Institute for Nutrition Research said identifying diets to prevent heart disease was a priority.
“Our results have shown that by simply eating one cup of raw (or half a cup of cooked) nitrate-rich vegetables each day, people may be able to significantly reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease,” Dr Bondonno said.
“The greatest reduction in risk was for peripheral artery disease (26 per cent), a type of heart disease characterised by the narrowing of blood vessels of the legs, however, we also found people had a lower risk of heart attacks, strokes and heart failure.”
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The study found that the optimum amount of nitrate-rich vegetables was one cup a day and eating more than that didn’t seem to give any additional benefits.
“People don’t need to be taking supplements to boost their nitrate levels because the study showed that one cup of leafy green vegetables each day is enough to reap the benefits for heart disease,” Dr Bondonno said.
“We did not see further benefits in people who ate higher levels of nitrate rich vegetables.”
Dr Bondonno said tips such as including a cup of spinach in a banana or berry smoothie might be an easy way to top up levels of daily leafy greens.
“Blending leafy greens is fine, but don’t juice them. Juicing vegetables removes the pulp and fibre,” Dr Bondonno explained.
The research adds to growing evidence linking vegetables generally and leafy greens specifically with improved cardiovascular health and muscle strength.
This evidence includes two recent ECU studies exploring cruciferous vegetables and blood vessel health and green leafy vegetables and muscle strength.
How many green leafy vegetables do you eat every day? Would you endeavour to eat more if you knew you could reduce your risk of heart disease?
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