Eat your veggies

Vegetables may help arteries stay clear
Reuters UK (Mon Jun 19, 2006 1:26 PM BST)
By Amy Norton

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – A healthy dose of vegetables every day may help keep the heart arteries clear, a study in mice suggests. Researchers found that lab mice given a diet full of broccoli, carrots, green beans, corn and peas developed far less artery narrowing than those reared on a veggie-free diet.

For humans, the findings offer more support for the advice health experts and mothers have long given: eat your vegetables.

From reading this & other articles about this study, I learned that the mice used in the study had been bred (including genetic alteration) to easily develop atherosclerosis. Which presents ethical issues for me. But the findings, nonetheless, are remarkable: at age 6 weeks, half the mice in the study were started on diets in which 30 percent of the calories came from freeze dried vegetables; the other mice ate no vegetables. Sixteen weeks later, the extend of atherosclerosis in the veggie-eaters was 38 percent less than in the veggie-free mice. The veggie-eaters also had lower cholesterol levels & lower incidence of a protein involved in inflammation. Veggies have vitamins & various plant compounds that have strong antioxidant & anti-inflammatory properties.

I still wonder what other foods were in the diets of the mice, both the veggie-eaters & the veggie-free. And also how much difference might have been made by different kinds of vegetables — those used were apparently selected because of their popularity in the American diet — & by vegetables that were produced organically instead of through conventional farming (with chemical fertilizers & pesticides, etc.). One must point out that the study was funded by General Mills (owners of Green Giant).

But it’s pretty inescapable that, yep, vegetables are good for heart health. And good for the health of people who are diabetic or prediabetic, too, like me. When we hear “diabetes” we mostly think blood sugar, but atherosclerosis is in fact one of the biggest problems in diabetes, cause of many of its complications & symptomatic of poor blood glucose regulation… which in turn is usually, in Type 2 diabetics, the result of poor dietary habits. It isn’t just about not overeating carbohydrates, but also about eating foods that can help prevent & even reverse some of the problems that come from having eaten poorly in the past.

I feel even better, reading about this study, about how I’ve changed my dietary habits in the past few months. One of the biggest changes I’ve made is that I eat lots more vegetables than I used to — in fact, I eat non-starchy vegetables of some type at virtually every meal. I will be interested next time I get my triglycerides & blood cholesterol checked to see how much difference I’ve made.

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