The atherosclerosis occurs when the fat – usually LDL (or ‘bad’) cholesterol – accumulates on the inner walls of blood vessels in the form of atherosclerotic plaques, causing a narrowing of the internal diameter of the vessel and making it difficult for blood to flow. An additional complication is that the plaques rupture and form clots that obstruct blood flow, as this can lead to a heart attack if blood does not reach the heart, or an ischemic stroke if it does not reach the brain.
Atherosclerosis is the main risk factor for cardiovascular disease, the leading cause of death worldwide. Chronic inflammation and oxidative stress are associated with its onset and progression and therefore include bioactive compounds in the daily diet with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activity could help reverse or slow the progression of atherosclerosis.
Now new research shows that a diet rich in carotenoids –natural pigments present in fruits and vegetables such as oranges, carrots, pumpkins, corn, tomatoes or peppers, among others– raising the level of these substances in the blood is related to a lower degree of atherosclerosis in the arteries and therefore help to reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular disease. The study was carried out by researchers from the Instituto de Investigaciones Biomédicas August Pi i Sunyer (IDIBAPS) and the Open University of Catalonia (UOC) and has been published in Clinical Nutrition.
Eating fruits and vegetables reduces cardiovascular risk
Carotenes are bioactive compounds that contain yellow, orange, and green fruits and vegetables, such as carrots, spinach, lettuce, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, broccoli, melons, peppers, mangoes, papayas, apricots, medlars, and pumpkins, and are potentially capable of control atherosclerosis. “However, the studies carried out to date have not been conclusive, and it even seems that, when administered as a supplement, they have a detrimental effect,” he explained. Gemma Chiva Blanchfrom the IDIBAPS Translational Research in Diabetes, Lipids and Obesity group, who led the work.
“The study concludes that the higher the concentration of carotenes in the blood, the lower the atherosclerotic burden, especially in women”
The researchers analyzed 200 people between the ages of 50 and 70 who were part of the DIABIMCAP cohort and had been recruited by the IDIBAPS cross-sectional research group in Primary Care, led by Antoni Sisó Admiral. These volunteers were analyzed with respect to two parameters: the concentration of carotenes in the blood and, using ultrasound images, the presence of atherosclerotic plaques in the carotid artery.
“The study concludes that the higher the concentration of carotenes in the blood, the lower the atherosclerotic burden, especially in women. […] Thus, we can affirm that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables and, therefore, in carotenes, reduces the risk of suffering from cardiovascular diseases”, stated Chiva Blanch.
Fuente: Open University of Catalonia (UOC)