April 04, 2018
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Vegetable intake decreases risk for atherosclerosis in older women

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Lauren C. Blekkenhorst

Older women with increased vegetable intake, specifically cruciferous vegetables including cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli and brussels sprouts, had a reduced risk for subclinical atherosclerosis, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

 “Less than 1 in 10 people have adequate vegetable intake,” Lauren C. Blekkenhorst, BHSc, PhD candidate at the University of Western Australia in Crawley and an employee of Edith Cowan University in Perth, Australia, told Cardiology Today. “Individuals need to consume more vegetables every single day. By including a variety of vegetables with a focus on consuming one or two servings of cruciferous vegetables per day, this may optimize overall vascular health benefits and reduce the long-term risk of heart disease, including heart attack and stroke.”

In the observational study, researchers analyzed data from 968 women (mean age, 75 years) from the CAIFOS study who were enrolled in 1998. Participants included in the current study did not have diabetes or prevalent atherosclerotic vascular disease.

All participants had data for carotid plaque severity analysis, and most participants had available data for common carotid artery intima-media thickness analysis (n = 954). Both analyses were performed in 2001.

Participants also completed food questionnaires at baseline to assess dietary intake over a 12-month period and to collect information on total vegetable intake and vegetable types. Other information collected included physical activity and smoking status.

The mean vegetable intake for all participants was 199.9 g per day (standard deviation, 78).

Women who consumed more than three servings of vegetables per day had a 5% lower maximum common carotid artery intima-media thickness and a 4.6% lower mean common carotid artery intima-media thickness vs. those who consumed less than two servings per day.

With each 10 g per day increase in the intake of cruciferous vegetables, mean common carotid artery intima-media thickness decreased by 0.8% and maximum common carotid artery intima-media thickness decreased by 0.8% (P for all < .01). Other types of vegetables such as legumes, leafy greens, allium and either red, yellow or orange vegetables did not correlate with common carotid artery intima-media thickness (P > .05).

Total vegetable intake and the types of vegetables did not affect carotid plaque severity (P > .05).

“These findings reinforce the importance of adequate vegetable intake to reduce your risk of atherosclerosis, heart attacks and strokes,” Blekkenhorst said in an interview. “Our findings also indicate that cruciferous vegetables may provide the greatest vascular health benefit and recommendations to include a couple of servings of cruciferous vegetables may optimize the health benefits of increasing vegetables in the diet.” – by Darlene Dobkowski

Disclosures: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.