Eating a diet rich in vegetables, especially those like broccoli and sprouts, may reduce cardiovascular risk in women by helping prevent hardening of the neck arteries, according to researchers.
Older women who ate more vegetables showed less carotid artery wall thickness, according to a new Australian study published in Journal of the American Heart Association.
“Increasing vegetables in the diet with a focus on consuming cruciferous vegetables may have benefits”
Cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and Brussels sprouts, proved the most beneficial, said the researchers from the University of Western Australia in Crawley.
They distributed food frequency questionnaires to 954 women aged 70 and older. The women noted their vegetable intake in a range from “never eating vegetables” to “three or more times per day”.
Vegetable types included cruciferous, allium – such as onions, garlic, leeks and shallots – yellow/orange/red, leafy green and legumes.
Vegetables in shop
Sonograms were used to measure carotid artery wall thickness and entire carotid trees were examined to determine carotid plaque severity.
Researchers observed a 0.05mm lower carotid artery wall thickness between high and low intakes of total vegetables.
Lead study author Lauren Blekkenhorst said: “That is likely significant, because a 0.1mm decrease in carotid wall thickness is associated with a 10% to 18% decrease in risk of stroke and heart attack.”
Each 10 grams per day higher in cruciferous vegetable intake was also associated with 0.8% lower average carotid artery wall thickness.
Other vegetable types did not show an association with carotid artery wall thickness in this study.
In addition, no associations were observed between vegetables and plaque severity, noted the study authors.
They said: “Increasing vegetables in the diet with a focus on consuming cruciferous vegetables may have benefits for the prevention of subclinical atherosclerosis in older adult women.”
“Guidelines should highlight the importance of increasing consumption of cruciferous vegetables”
Ms Blekkenhorst added: “This is one of only a few studies that have explored the potential impact of different types of vegetables on measures of subclinical atherosclerosis, the underlying cause of cardiovascular disease.
“After adjusting for lifestyle, cardiovascular disease risk factors – including medication use – as well as other vegetable types and dietary factors, our results continued to show a protective association between cruciferous vegetables and carotid artery wall thickness,” she said.
However, due to the observational nature of the study, the researchers noted that a causal relationship could not be established without more research.
“Still, dietary guidelines should highlight the importance of increasing consumption of cruciferous vegetables for protection from vascular disease,” added Ms Blekkenhorst.