The findings, according to researchers, “help to explain” why earlier studies have suggested that a Mediterranean diet can reduce blood pressure. (Click here to see a press release about the new study.)
The Mediterranean diet is rich in vegetables, fruits, olive oil, whole grains, seafood and nuts – and light on red meat, butter, and animal fats. It includes “good” unsaturated fats found in olive oil, nuts and avocados, along with vegetables like spinach, celery and carrots that are rich in nitrites and nitrates.
When these two food groups are combined, according to researchers, the reaction of unsaturated fatty acids with nitrogen compounds in the vegetables leads to the formation of certain fatty acids that can lower blood pressure.
“The findings of our study help to explain why previous research has shown that a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra virgin olive oil or nuts can reduce the incidence of cardiovascular problems like stroke, heart failure and heart attacks,” said Philip Eaton, professor of cardiovascular biochemistry at King’s College London, which led the study. It was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a peer-reviewed U.S. journal.
The study, supported by the British Heart Foundation, was based on lab mice. Researchers used genetically engineered mice to study the impact nitro fatty acids had the body.
Nitro fatty acids helped lower blood pressure by blocking an enzyme called epoxide hydrolase, according to the researchers. “Humans have this same enzyme so we think the same happens in people,” Eaton told the BBC, adding that human trials are planned.
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