The once maligned Brussels sprouts have been making a bit of a comeback in recent years with fancy recipes to tempt even the staunchest haters. Now there could be more reason to embrace these mini greens and their cruciferous cousins.
An observational study with nearly 700 older women, published in the British Journal of Nutrition, has found that those who eat more cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower have lower risk of blood vessel disease.
Eating more than 45 grams of these vegetables every day – equivalent to a quarter of a cup of steamed broccoli or half a cup of raw cabbage – was linked to 46% less chance of calcium build up in the aorta, the heart’s major artery that carries blood to the body.
“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,” says lead author Lauren Blekkenhorst from Edith Cowan University, Western Australia, “but we weren’t sure why.”
“Our findings from this new study provide insight into the potential mechanisms involved.”
So what sets cruciferous vegetables apart from the others, in terms of calcification?
The researchers propose that contributing factors could include pectin, anti-inflammatory flavanols and vitamin K, compounds that are particularly rich in these vegetables.
Australia’s Heart Foundation manager Beth Meertens said the findings are promising. “This study provides valuable insights into how this group of vegetables might contribute to the health of our arteries and ultimately our heart.”
The cohort was a group of women aged 70 years or older who completed food questionnaires and aortic calcification in 1998, measured as part of a clinical trial.
It should be noted that the study is correlational, and although it controlled for lifestyle, diet and heart disease risk factors, this design doesn’t prove causation.
Nonetheless, it adds to a vast body of work that links vegetables to better heart health – and not just broccoli, cabbage and Brussels sprouts, Blekkenhorst notes.
“We should be eating a wide variety of vegetables every day for overall good health and wellbeing.”
Natalie Parletta is a freelance science writer based in Adelaide and an adjunct senior research fellow with the University of South Australia.
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