Cruciferous Vegetables Reduce Artery Plaque
Researchers are increasingly finding that cruciferous vegetables can help prevent cardiovascular disease by reducing artery plaque and advanced blood vessel disease.
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Advanced blood vessel disease and cruciferous veggies
In a 2020 study published in the British Journal of Nutrition (Bellenhorst et al.) has found that eating more cruciferous vegetables such as cauliflower, broccoli and cabbage can reduce the risk of blood vessel disease and the build up of plaque on the arteries.
The research followed 684 Western Australian women over a 20 year period. Those who ate more cruciferous vegetables in their diet had less fat and calcium build-up on their aorta blood vessel.
Those who ate more than 45 grams of cruciferous vegetables daily – equivalent to a quarter cup of steamed broccoli or a half cup of raw cabbage – were nearly half as likely (46 percent) to have a significant build-up of calcium on their aorta artery compared to those who ate little to no cruciferous vegetables daily.
Aorta calcium build up is a marker for blood vessel disease, which reduces the flow of blood throughout the body. This comes from the build-up of fatty calcium deposits on the inner walls of blood vessels, which can lead to strokes and heart attacks. This is also called atherosclerosis.
Dr. Lauren Blekkenhorst and her team had found in previous studies that cruciferous vegetables reduced heart attacks and strokes, but weren’t sure why:
“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.”Lauren Blekkenhorst, M.D.
Dr. Blekkenhorst also pointed out that one of the nutrients that might contribute to this effect is vitamin K.
Cruciferous vegetables are known for their vitamin K content. For example, one serving of broccoli contains 116 percent of the recommended daily value (DV%) for vitamin K.
Cruciferous vegetables and atherosclerosis
This study also yielded the connection between cruciferous vegetables and atherosclerosis. In 2018, the researchers tested artery plaque levels by measuring carotid artery intima-media thickness. They compared these test results to the diets among the study population.
The results found that for every 10 grams of these vegetables eaten per day there was a reduction in carotid artery plaque thickness by close to one percent (0.8%).
The research also surprisingly found that other vegetables didn’t have the same effect on artery plaque.
Other studies have indicated eating more vegetables do benefit the cardiovascular system. But they didn’t break down which vegetables had the most effect.
Cruciferous vegetables and mortality
This may also explain at least in part, why cruciferous vegetables are linked with lower mortality compared with other foods.
A study from Tokyo’s Epidemiology and Prevention Group, Center for Public Health Sciences (Mori et al. 2019) followed 88,184 for nearly 17 years. During this time they recorded their diets and measured the number of deaths.
The research found that those who ate more cruciferous vegetables had a 14 percent reduced rate of death among men and an 11 percent reduced death rate among women.
The cruciferous vegetables reduced rates of cardiovascular disease, cerebrovascular disease and cancer among the subjects.
This of course means the men and women who ate more cruciferous vegetables lived longer.
Again, eating vegetables in general has been associated with better cardiovascular health. This at least explains one reason why.
List of cruciferous vegetables
There are many vegetables, including many that may surprise you:
- Bok choy
- Broccoli romanesco
- Brussels sprouts
- Chinese broccoli
- Chinese cabbage
- Choy sum
- Collard greens
- Garden cress
- Land cress
- Savoy cabbage
- Turnip roots and greens
Blekkenhorst LC, Sim M, Radavelli-Bagatini S, et al. Cruciferous vegetable intake is inversely associated with extensive abdominal aortic calcification in elderly women: a cross-sectional study. Br J Nutr. 2020;1-9. doi:10.1017/S0007114520002706
Blekkenhorst LC, Bondonno CP, Lewis JR, et al. Cruciferous and Total Vegetable Intakes Are Inversely Associated With Subclinical Atherosclerosis in Older Adult Women. J Am Heart Assoc. 2018;7(8):e008391. Published 2018 Apr 4. doi:10.1161/JAHA.117.008391
Mori N, Shimazu T, Charvat H, et al. Cruciferous vegetable intake and mortality in middle-aged adults: A prospective cohort study. Clin Nutr. 2019;38(2):631-643. doi:10.1016/j.clnu.2018.04.012