Health

How eating broccoli is linked to heart health

broccoli and heart health

New research sheds light on the understanding of how cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, can improve heart health and prevent cardiovascular disease.

Cardiovascular disease is a leading cause of death worldwide. Cardiovascular disease is a result of the build-up of fatty cells, inflammation, calcium, and other substances within the blood vessel walls – known as atherosclerosis – that can ultimately result in the blockage of blood vessels. Calcium build-up in the blood vessels, known as calcification, can be a predictor for cardiovascular disease and death. A widely known method for preventing cardiovascular disease is a healthy diet, which includes high consumption of vegetables.

Previous studies have shown that a high intake of cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts, are associated with a decreased thickness of the carotid-artery blood vessel, and therefore a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and death. A recent study by researchers in Australia and the United States, published in the British Journal of Nutrition, further investigates the benefit between cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli and heart health.

Selected participants were from a pool of older women originally recruited to a randomized controlled trial studying calcium supplementation and osteoporotic fractures. Women taking medications affecting bone metabolism or with a medical history of cardiovascular-related diseases were excluded. The women’s diets were self-documented in a questionnaire that measured usual food intake, including portion sizes. The women were imaged to assess for AAC (abdominal aortic calcification), the calcification of the aortic blood vessel in the abdomen.

The researchers found that eating more cruciferous vegetables was associated with a lower risk of having extensive abdominal aortic calcification, after adjustment for risk factors. According to the study, women who ate more than 45 grams of cruciferous vegetables daily (e.g. half a cup of steamed broccoli) had 46% less chance of having extensive calcium build-up in their aortic blood vessel compared to women who ate no or very little cruciferous vegetables daily.

Not only does the consumption of cruciferous vegetables reduce the thickening of blood vessel walls as shown in previous research, this study demonstrates that cruciferous vegetables play a role in regulating the build-up of calcium in the blood vessels to prevent the calcification that contributes to cardiovascular disease. The cardiovascular benefits may be a result of one or more of the many diverse bioactive compounds found in cruciferous vegetables, such as flavonols, pectin, and vitamin K.

This study further strengthens current knowledge of the benefits of a healthy diet high in vegetable consumption on heart health. It also suggests potential new areas for further research to better understand the mechanisms behind the protective effects of cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, on heart health. Future research should also focus on confirming whether the benefits demonstrated in this study are also seen in other populations, such as in males, younger females, and non-Caucasian populations.

References:

Blekkenhorst, L. C., Sim, M., Radavelli-Bagatini, S., Bondonno, N. P., Bondonno, C. P., Devine, A., . . . Lewis, J. R. (2020). Cruciferous vegetable intake is inversely associated with extensive abdominal aortic calcification in elderly women: A cross-sectional study. British Journal of Nutrition, 1-9. doi:10.1017/s0007114520002706

Broccoli and Brussels sprouts a cut above for blood vessel health. (2020, August 20). Retrieved August 25, 2020, from https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2020-08/ecu-bab081920.php

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