Elderly women who eat more vegetables may be less likely to develop hardening of the arteries, a study from the University of Western Australia in Crawley suggests.
Researchers surveyed 954 women aged 70 and older. They also used ultrasound to assess the thickness of the walls of the carotid artery in the neck, and the extent of plaque accumulation. Thinner artery walls and less plaque buildup are associated with a lower risk of heart attack and stroke.
Compared to women who had less two servings of vegetables a day, women who consumed at least three servings daily had carotid artery walls that were about 0.036 millimeters, or 5 percent, less thick, researchers found. With three servings of vegetables, maximum artery thickness was 0.047 millimeters lower.
Cruciferous veggies most beneficial
In addition, each daily 10-gram increase (about one-third of an ounce) in consumption of cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and cabbage was associated with 0.8 percent lower average artery wall thickness.
The research suggests that including a couple of servings of cruciferous vegetables amongst the recommended amount of vegetables may optimize vascular health benefits.
Food questionnaires asked women to describe their typical vegetable intake in a range from “never eating vegetables” to consuming them “three or more times a day.”
Overall, women in the study consumed an average of about 200 grams a day of vegetables, or about 2.7 servings.
The study wasn’t a controlled experiment designed to prove whether or how vegetable consumption might directly impact artery health or the risk of cardiovascular disease, heart attack or stroke.
It’s possible that when people eat more vegetables, they have healthier arteries because veggies are filling and there’s less room in their diet for processed junk food that can damage arteries.
Vegetables are excellent sources of vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals shown to reduce inflammation and oxidative stress, factors that can contribute to cardiovascular disease.
Another limitation is that researchers relied on participants to accurately recall and report on how often they ate vegetables and what types they typically consumed, an approach that can be unreliable.
Even so, 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.
This study shows that this beneficial effect of vegetables may be due to their influence on the arteries. In particular, the findings suggest that higher intakes of vegetables in general and cruciferous vegetables in particular are associated lower risk of thickening and stiffness of the walls of arteries.
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