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Vegetable-Rich Diet Tied to Less Artery-Clogging Plaque

June 19, 2006 -- Scientists are serving up yet another reason to put vegetables on your plate: It might discourage plaque from accumulating in your arteries.

So says Michael Adams, DVM. He's a professor in Wake Forest University's pathology/comparative medicine department in Winston-Salem, N.C.

Adams and colleagues recently studied nearly 100 young male mice at high genetic risk for artery-clogging plaque. For four months, the researchers fed half of the mice a vegetable-free diet.

The other mice got the same number of calories, but 30% of those calories came from equal parts of freeze-dried corn, carrots, green beans, broccoli, and peas. Adams' team chose those vegetables because they're five of the most common vegetables in the U.S. diet, not counting potatoes.

Why not include potatoes? Because in the U.S., they're typically served drenched in fat from frying, the scientists note in The Journal of Nutrition's July issue.

Less Plaque

After four months, the scientists checked the mice's arteries. They found 38% less plaque in the arteries of mice that had eaten the vegetable-rich diet, compared with mice that had eaten no vegetables.

Mice fed the vegetable-rich diet also had modestly better cholesterol levels -- including a slight drop in LDL ("bad") cholesterol -- and had gained 7% less weight.

How do vegetables help tame plaque? That's still uncertain, write Adams and colleagues.

Adams' team checked the data to look for clues. They concluded that the differences in weight and cholesterol between the two groups of mice didn't totally account for the plaque gap.

But the researchers found another clue related to inflammation, which is associated with hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis). Adams and colleagues found lower levels of an inflammatory marker in blood from the mice on the vegetable-rich diet, compared with those lacking vegetables.

The study was funded by the General Mills Company, which supplied the vegetables.

SOURCES: Adams, M. The Journal of Nutrition, July 2006; vol 136: pp 1886-1889. News release, Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center.

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