DALLAS, Dec. 1 -- Instead of popping vitamin pills, the addition of a few more servings of fruits and vegetables and lowering fat in the diet may help stave off a disease process which leads to heart attack and stroke, researchers say. In today's Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association, scientists at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore report that people who ate a low-fat diet rich in fruits and vegetables were able to better protect against oxidation of lipids, a form of fat in the bloodstream. Blood lipids are altered, or oxidized, when exposed to oxygen free radicals. This process, atherosclerosis, clogs blood vessels, which inhibits blood flow and causes heart attacks or strokes.
The study's lead author, Edgar R. Miller, III, M.D., Ph.D., says that a change in eating habits, rather than supplementing a diet with "antioxidant" vitamins, provides the body with ample amounts of carotenoids and other naturally occurring antioxidants, which inhibit the oxidation of lipids that ultimately leads to atherosclerosis.
"These results support the hypothesis that diets rich in fruits and vegetables can increase the antioxidant capacity of blood, which protects against lipid oxidation," says Miller, of the Welch Center for Prevention, Epidemiology, and Clinical Research at The Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, Baltimore. "Such links between healthy dietary patterns and reduced rates of lipid oxidation contribute to a better understanding of the role of diet in atherosclerosis.
"This study provides additional scientific rationale for recommendations to increase the consumption of fruits and vegetables and reduce dietary fat intake as a means to prevent atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease," he adds. This research was done as part of the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) clinical trial, which previously demonstrated a favorable impact of certain diets on blood pressure.