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Every single junk food meal damages your arteries

According to a study published in the Canadian Journal of Cardiology just a single junk food meal — composed mainly of saturated fat — is detrimental to the health of the arteries, while no damage occurs after consuming a Mediterranean style meal that is rich in good fats such as mono-and polyunsaturated fatty acids. The Mediterranean meal may even have a positive effect on the arteries.

The study compares the effects of a junk food meal and a typical Mediterranean meal on the vascular endothelium: the inner lining of the blood vessels. By measuring endothelial function, it is possible to determine how easily the arteries will dilate after a temporary, five-minute occlusion, following the consumption of the two types of meals. This is a very interesting analysis for researchers to perform as endothelial function is closely linked to the long-term risk of developing coronary artery disease.

The researchers tested the effects of a Mediterranean meal composed of salmon, almonds and vegetables cooked in olive oil, of which 51% of total calories came from fat (mostly monounsaturated fatty acids and polyunsaturated fats) and a typical junk food meal consisting of a sandwich made of a sausage, an egg and a slice of cheese, and three hash browns, of which 58% of total calories came from fat (extremely rich in saturated fatty acids and containing no omega-3s). At two hours and four hours after each meal, participants underwent ultrasounds to assess how the food had impacted their endothelial function.

The researchers found that after eating the junk food meal, the arteries of the study participants dilated 24% less than they did when in the fasting state. In contrast, the arteries were found to dilate normally and maintain good blood flow after the Mediterranean-type meal. The study also revealed that participants with higher blood triglyceride levels seemed to benefit more from the healthy meals. Their arteries responded better to the Mediterranean meal compared to people with low triglyceride levels.

Since poor endothelial function is one of the most significant precursors of atherosclerosis the study gives us something to think about at every meal. It also means that a Mediterranean-type diet may be particularly beneficial for individuals with high triglyceride levels, such as patients with metabolic syndrome, precisely because it could help keep arteries healthy.

Cantin J et al. 390 Does the Adherence to a Mediterranean Diet Influence Baseline and Postprandial Endothelial Function? Canadian Journal of Cardiology, 2012; 28 (5): S245 DOI: 10.1016/j.cjca.2012.07.367

Categories: Metabolic Health