According to scientists, the health edge the Mediterranean diet has gained is due to the combination of leafy salads or vegetables and olive oil.
They explained that when the two food groups are combined, they form nitro fatty acids which are responsible for lowering blood pressure. The nitrite in the vegetables combines with the unsaturated fat in olive oil. Scientists said that avocados and nuts, along with vegetables should also be successful.
The Mediterranean diet, which has been inspired by foods from countries such as Spain, Italy and Greece, has long been linked with good heart and overall health. The diet consists mainly of fresh fruit, vegetables, nuts, wholegrain cereals, olive, fish and poultry, instead of huge amounts of red meat, and animal fats or butter.
Each unit of the Mediterranean diet has nutritional benefits, but scientists have been confused about what it is that makes the complete diet such a healthy option.
King’s College London’s Professor Philip Eaton, along with colleagues at the University of California believes that the combination of the ingredients of the diet is what makes the nitro fatty acids.
Their study, which was partly funded by the British Heart Foundation, included the use of genetically engineered mice to determine the impact of nitro fatty acids on the body.
The acids helped in the lowering of blood pressure by blocking an enzyme named epoxide hydrolase.
Professor Eaton stated that humans have the same enzyme, so the same process should occur in the human body. He said this is the reason why the Mediterranean diet is so healthy, even though it also contains fat.
He stated that if the fats in the diet are taken in combination with nitrites or nitrates, it creates a chemical reaction which combines to form the nitro fatty acids. It is a protective mechanism formed naturally. He further added that if it was possible to master this process, it would be possible to produce new drugs for the treatment of high blood pressure which would prevent heart disease.
According to Professor Eaton, human trials are being planned.
The British Heart Foundation’s Dr Sanjay Thakrar said that more work is required as the experiments were carried out in mice and the compound may be affected by other factors.
Image Credit: Andy Roberts