New research revealed that elderly women may lower their risk of heart problems if they consume more vegetables, Reuters reported. In the study, vegetable intake was linked to the condition of arteries, which can affect the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
The study, which appeared in the Journal of the American Heart Association, surveyed 954 women aged 70 and older. Using ultrasound technology, researchers analysed the thickness of the walls of the carotid artery in the neck, as well as the amount of plaque that had accumulated.
“Thinner artery walls and less plaque buildup are associated with a lower risk of heart attacks and strokes,” Reuters noted.
The study revealed that participants who consumed at least three servings of vegetables per day had artery walls which were 0.036 millimetres thinner than those who consumed two or fewer servings. This amounted to 5% thinner carotid artery walls. Some participants who consumed three servings of vegetables had artery walls which were 0.047 millimetres thinner, further decreasing the risk of heart disease.
Consuming cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli and cauliflower, appeared to further benefit participants. The study found that for every 10-gram increase of cruciferous vegetables, participants showed a 0.8% lower average for the thickness of artery walls.
Lead study author and nutrition researcher at the University of Western Australia, Lauren Blekkenhorst, told Reuters: “We were excited to find out that intake of cruciferous vegetables seemed to be the most beneficial.”
“However, this does not discount the importance of other vegetable types, as we know increasing a variety of all vegetables is important to maintain good health.”
Blekkenhorst suggested that including servings of cruciferous vegetables in one’s diet “may help to optimize the vascular health benefits.”
The research confirmed previous information that less than one in 10 people consume the minimum recommended servings of vegetables each day. The women in the study consumed just 2.7 servings daily, rather than the recommended five.
While the study was not a controlled experiment Reuters noted that vegetables are “full of vitamins and minerals that have been shown to reduce inflammation and oxidative stress, factors that can contribute to cardiovascular disease.”
Further, the publication noted that many previous studies have “linked higher plant-based diets and higher vegetable consumption to a lower risk of developing heart disease or dying from it.”
Blekkenhorst commented that since participants were asked to recall and report vegetable intake, the data may be unreliable. However, Nour Makarem, a researcher at Columbia University in New York City, told Reuters: “This study shows that this beneficial effect of vegetables may be due to their influence on the arteries.”
A previous study found that 90% of adults increase their risk of chronic disease by not eating enough fruit and vegetables. In contrast, those who follow a plant-based diet may better negate these risks.
Image Credit: Shutterstock