Antioxidants, Vegetables and Heart Disease

The value of vegetables is a basic tenant of any healthy living approach, including the Atkins Nutritional Approach. The importance of vegetables- and the vitamins, minerals, fiber and nutrients they provide- has been so established by research that more research seems almost redundant. Yet the research just keeps coming. Recently, researchers at the University of California compared the health of two groups of mice: One was fed a diet with 30 percent of their calories coming from peas, beans, broccoli, carrots and the like, while the other was fed a 100 % vegetable-free diet. Using a common marker for the development of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), the researchers found that the vegetable eating mice had a whopping 38% less atherosclerosis.

The study, published in the July issue of the Journal of Nutrition (vol 136) also found that the vegetable diet resulted in lower levels of total cholesterol (12 percent lower), and, interestingly, lower levels of serum amyloid A, an important marker for inflammation.

Since inflammation is a “silent killer”, and a component of many degenerative diseases including obesity, diabetes, heart disease and Alzheimer’s, any dietary strategy that helps control inflammation is critically important to note. The researchers believe that the antioxidants in the vegetables (i.e. vitamin C, vitamin E, selenium and the carotenoids) were partly responsible for the anti-inflammatory effect. “These results further support the idea that increased vegetable consumption inhibits atherosclerosis progression through antioxidant and anti-inflammatory pathways”, wrote lead author Dr. Michael Adams.

The study is in agreement with another analysis published in January in The Lancet, (vol 367) that reported that eating five or more portions of fruit and vegetables per day could cut the risk of stroke by 26 percent.