Calcium buildup in the arteries can be dangerous but new research shows adding certain vegetables to your diet can seriously reduce the risk. Australian scientists found older women who ate more cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, kale, cauliflower or Brussels sprouts were much less likely to have extensive calcium build-up on their aorta, which is a key marker for structural blood vessel disease.
Blood vessel disease is characterized by reduced blood flow in arteries and veins. This can be due to the build-up of fatty calcium deposits on the inner walls of blood vessels such as the aorta, the main artery which takes blood away from the heart to the rest of the body. Calcium deposits in blood vessels are the leading cause of heart attack and stroke.
The findings from Edith Cowan University and the University of Western Australia were recently published in the British Journal of Nutrition. The report detailed what was observed in a cohort of 684 older women in Western Australia.
Intrigued by previous research, lead scientist Dr. Lauren Blekkenhorst was hoping to understand more about how cruciferous vegetables provide protection to the cardiovascular system.
"In our previous studies, we identified those with a higher intake of these vegetables had a reduced risk of having a clinical cardiovascular disease event, such as a heart attack or stroke, but we weren't sure why," Blekkenhorst said. "Our findings from this new study provide insight into the potential mechanisms involved.
"We have now found that older women consuming higher amounts of cruciferous vegetables every day have lower odds of having extensive calcification on their aorta," Blekkenhorst added. "One particular constituent found abundantly in cruciferous vegetables is vitamin K which may be involved in inhibiting the calcification process that occurs in our blood vessels."
The women in the study who consumed 45 grams of cruciferous vegetables daily, which is equivalent to ¼ cup of steamed broccoli or ½ cup of raw cabbage, were half as likely to have extensive calcium deposits in the aorta than those who ate little or none. And those who ate the most had the lowest risk.
"That's not to say the only vegetables we should be eating are broccoli, cabbage and Brussels sprouts,” Blekkenhorst said. “We should be eating a wide variety of vegetables every day for overall good health and wellbeing."
Click here to read more in the British Journal of Nutrition.