Eating up your greens may help the heart pump more efficiently and reduce the risk of obesity and heart attacks, UK research has shown.
Scientists say nitrate, found in leafy green vegetables, prevents the blood thickening, improves circulation, and protects against dangerous clots, heart attacks and strokes.
Nitrate can also help blood vessels to widen and change harmful white fat cells into brown calorie-burning fat cells that may combat obesity and Type 2 diabetes.
Dr Andrew Murray, from Cambridge University, says they have shown that nitrate from the diet can help regulate the delivery of oxygen to cells and tissues and its use, matching oxygen supply and demand.
“This ensures cells and tissues in the body have enough oxygen to function without needing to over produce red blood cells, which can make the blood too thick and compromise health,” Murray said.
“Lowering the blood’s thickness without compromising oxygen delivery may also help prevent blood clots, reducing the risk of a stroke or heart attack.”
The team, whose findings are published in the Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, found that eating more nitrate-rich vegetables like spinach reduces levels of a hormone made in the liver that helps control blood thickness.
Co-author Professor Martin Feelisch, from the University of Southampton, says the findings suggest simple dietary changes may offer treatments for people suffering from heart and blood vessel diseases that cause too many red blood cells to be produced.
“It is also exciting as it may have broader implications in sport science, and could aid recovery of patients in intensive care by helping us understand how oxygen can be delivered to our cells more efficiently.”
Two other papers published in The Journal of Physiology, and Diabetes, showed how consuming nitrate promoted blood vessel dilation and the conversion of white fat cells into the brown version.
All three studies were part-funded by the British Heart Foundation.