A diet rich in plant substances promotes the elasticity of blood vessels and counteracts their aging. An international research team with the participation of the University of Leipzig has for the first time demonstrated a strong positive effect of the green, Mediterranean diet on the condition of the aorta.
-A healthy lifestyle is an important foundation for improving the cardiovascular system and metabolism. Polyphenols, which are found exclusively in plants, show great promise for improving the health of our blood vessels. We have demonstrated for the first time that this type of diet has a positive effect on vascular aging," says Iris Shai, head of the study and visiting professor of nutritional sciences at the Medical Faculty of the University of Leipzig.
The current study shows: The green Mediterranean diet reduces stiffness of the aorta, the main artery, by 15 percent. The measure of stiffened aorta is indicative of vascular aging and the risk of developing cardiovascular problems. The results were published in the most prestigious cardiology journal, the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
The green Mediterranean diet includes a lot of fruit, vegetables and legumes, which contain a high proportion of secondary plant compounds known as polyphenols. Red meat, on the other hand, is rarely on the menu. In addition, the participants in the study consumed three to four cups of green tea, 28 grams of walnuts and one cup of mankai, a green shake made from duckweed, every day for a period of one and a half years. The aquatic plant mankai is rich in 200 different types of polyphenols, as well as iron and vitamin B12. Due to its high protein content, the plant is a good substitute for meat.
Stiffness of the main beat measured with MRI
In the large-scale, long-term clinical study, aortic stiffness as an indirect measure of arterial calcification was measured over 18 months in 300 participant:s using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), the most accurate non-invasive method of measurement. The stiffness reflects the stiffness of the aorta from the ascending to the proximal-descending thoracic aorta, the section of the body’s largest artery that carries oxygenated blood away from the heart. Increased aortic stiffness is a clear marker of vascular aging and a risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
-The green, Mediterranean diet resulted in a dramatic 15 percent reduction in aortic stiffness, achieved through simple and feasible dietary and lifestyle changes. The results of our study show once again that not all diets offer similar benefits and that this type of diet can promote vascular health," said Matthias Blüher, co-author of the study and spokesperson for Collaborative Research Center 1052, Mechanisms of Obesity.
The DIRECT-PLUS study research team led by Professor Shai introduced the concept of a green-Mediterranean, polyphenol-rich diet. In previous studies, the scientists had shown that this form of nutrition has various positive effects, ranging from the remodeling of the microbiome and the prevention of brain atrophy to the regression of fatty liver and visceral obesity.
The study was funded by grants from the German Research Foundation (project number 209933838-SFB 1052), the Rosetrees Trust, the Israeli Ministry of Health, the Israeli Ministry of Science and Technology, and the California Walnut Commission.
Original title of publication in Journal of the American College of Cardiology:
Effect of Lifestyle Modification and Green Mediterranean Diet on Q1 Proximal Aortic Stiffness , doi.org/10.1016/j.jacc.2023.02.032
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