The study – published in the Canadian Journal of Cardiology and presented at the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress – compares the effects of junk food and typical Mediterranean meal on the the inner lining of the blood vessels (known as the vascular endothelium), finding that while a Mediterranean style meal, composed of ‘good fats’, causes no damage a single junk food containing saturated fats causes blood vessels to reduce functioning by up to 24%.
Led by Dr Anil Nigam from the University of Montreal, Canada, the researchers added that Mediterranean meals that contain mono-and polyunsaturated fatty acids may even have a positive effect on artery functions.
"These results will positively alter how we eat on a daily basis,” warned Nigam. “Poor endothelial function is one of the most significant precursors of atherosclerosis.”
“It is now something to think about at every meal."
Nigam and his team compared the effects of each meal by measuring endothelial functions – which are closely linked to the long-term risk of developing coronary artery disease.
In the study 28 non-smoking men ate the Mediterranean-type meal first and then the junk food-type meal one week later.
Before beginning, all participants’ baseline endothelial functions were measured. At two hours and four hours after each meal, participants underwent further endothelial functioning assessments.
Nigam and his team 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, they found arteries 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 from the healthy Mediterranean meals.
"We believe 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," said Nigam.
Source: Canadian Journal of Cardiology
Volume 28, Issue 5, Supplement, September–October 2012, Pages S245, doi: 10.1016/j.cjca.2012.07.367
“390 Does the Adherence to a Mediterranean Diet Influence Baseline and Postprandial Endothelial Function?”
Authors: J. Cantin, S. Lacroix, J. Tardif, A. Nigam