Leafy green vegetables could improve heart health

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British researchers claim that kale, cabbage, broccoli, spinach and lettuce contain beneficial chemical nitrates which are able to reach all parts in the body.

They undertook three studies and all three indicated that leafy, green vegetables cause thinning of the blood, which ensures that it is delivered throughout the body. This reduces the risk of heart attacks, stroke and clots.

Nitrate starts a chain reaction which opens and widens blood vessels, and converts white fat cells which are bad for you, into the good brown, fat-burning cells. Maintaining a diet which includes these vegetables can overcome type-2 diabetes and obesity.

The results of the studies suggest that people suffering with cardiovascular disease may be able to alter their blood thickness by changing their diet to include nitrate rich vegetables.

Dr Tom Ashmore, a researcher, said the most attractive thing about nitrate is that it is inexpensive, non-invasive, and not much of it is required to experience a significant impact. He said the only problem is that some people dislike vegetables.

Dr Ashmore was the leader of a study which indicated that consuming more nitrate rich vegetables, such as lettuce and spinach, could result in reduced production of a hormone called erythropoietin, which is made by the liver and kidneys. This particular hormone determines the production of red blood cells responsible for blood thickness and increased oxygen levels. The one problem is that an over-supply of cells can cause harm to heart patients and those suffering with altitude sickness, as they may suffer from oxygen starvation due to their blood being too thick to reach all their vital organs.

The new study indicates that the consumption of more green vegetables could eliminate some of the symptoms linked to damaged hearts as it cuts erythropoietin levels, thus reducing red blood cell production.

The co-leader of the study, Dr Andrew Murray based at Cambridge University, said the study showed that nitrate obtained from the diet is able to regulate the delivery of oxygen to the tissues and cells and its uses, thereby matching the oxygen demand and supply. He said this ensures that the tissues and cells have sufficient oxygen to function without the requirement to over-produce red blood cells, which is dangerous to health.

Southampton University’s professor Martin Feelisch said this is an interesting result as it could offer more support in sport science, and could aid in the recovery of patients in intensive care by helping the medical fraternity understand the method of oxygen delivery to cells.

A second study indicated that the consumption of more leafy greens could offer protection of proteins in heart cells. This causes an increase in a compound which allows blood vessels to become wider, thereby allowing more efficient pumping of the heart.

A third study indicated that nitrate is able to stimulate the conversion of white fat cells, which are said to be bad for your body, into good beige cells.

Beige cells are responsible for burning fat to produce heat, which suggests that a simple change to your diet could reduce the number of white fat cells in the body, thus reducing the risk of type-2 diabetes and obesity.

Dr Murray was involved in all three studies and said that the studies indicate three ways in which simple dietary changes could reduce the risk of obesity and type-2 diabetes, as well as alleviate the symptoms of existing cardiovascular conditions, which could result in improved overall health.

Image Credit: Green Mountain Girls Farm

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