A diet high in protein, zinc and niacin may benefit your blood vessel health

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A study conducted in Israel and presented at the European Congress on Obesity has found that specific nutrients can have a significant impact on heart health.

Traditionally, improvements in heart health during weight loss have been attributed to the weight loss itself or related factors like better blood sugar and blood pressure levels.

However, this study suggests that the types of nutrients we consume also play a crucial role.

What the Study Did

The researchers involved 72 people with obesity and metabolic syndrome (a condition that involves high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and other health problems).

The participants were about 53 years old on average, and more than half were men.

The study lasted a year and included personalized diet and exercise plans. Participants met regularly with a doctor and a dietician.

They filled out a detailed food diary before starting the program and again a year later.

Researchers also measured the flexibility of the participants’ blood vessels, which is a good indicator of heart health. The more flexible the blood vessels, the lower the risk of heart-related diseases.

Key Findings

At the end of the study, participants had, on average, a 9.4% reduction in BMI (Body Mass Index), and all showed improvements in blood vessel flexibility. Specifically:

  • Flexibility improved by 47% based on one measure (FMD).
  • Another measure (PWV) improved by 13%.
  • A third measure (IMT) improved by 1%.

Nutrients and Their Role

Zinc: This nutrient was linked to improvements in PWV. Foods rich in zinc like sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, nuts, and meat were part of the diet plan. Zinc helps make nitric oxide, which relaxes blood vessel muscles.

Protein: Increases in protein were associated with improvements in IMT. Lean dairy products, fish, poultry, and eggs were recommended in the diet plan.

Niacin or Vitamin B3: This nutrient was tied to improvements in FMD. Meat and fish provided the necessary niacin. Niacin is known to widen blood vessels, mainly in the upper part of the body.

The Takeaway

Lead researcher Dr. Brurya Tal says that a Mediterranean diet—rich in protein, vegetables, nuts, and seeds, with moderate fruit and grain consumption—can help improve blood vessel flexibility and thus, heart health.

So, if you’re looking to boost your heart health, you might want to consider not just losing weight, but also focusing on these specific nutrients in your diet.

If you care about nutrition, please read studies about how Mediterranean diet could protect your brain health, and the best time to take vitamins to prevent heart disease.

For more information about health, please see recent studies about plant nutrients that could help reduce high blood pressure, and these antioxidants could help reduce dementia risk.

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