Maybe you should skip the fried breakfast and opt for low-fat yogurt: a new study finds that even one meal of sausage, eggs and hash browns can damage your arteries, while eating a Mediterranean meal may actually benefit your heart.
Researchers from the University of Montreal-affiliated ÉPIC Center of the Montreal Heart Institute recruited 28 nonsmoking men to first eat a Mediterranean-type meal of salmon, almonds, and vegetables cooked in olive oil. The next week, they returned to eat a hearty breakfast of sausage, an egg, a slice of cheese and three hash browns. Before beginning the study, the men underwent an ultrasound of the antecubital artery after a 12-hour fast to assess their baseline endothelial function, or the function of the inner lining of the blood vessels.
At two hours and four hours after each meal, participants underwent further ultrasounds to assess how the meal had impacted their endothelial function. Lead researcher Dr. Anil Nigam and his team found that after eating the greasy breakfast meal, the arteries of the study participants dilated 24 percent less than they did when in the fasting state. In contrast, after the salmon meal, the subjects' arteries were found to dilate normally and maintain good blood flow.
"These results will positively alter how we eat on a daily basis," Nigram says. "Poor endothelial function is one of the most significant precursors of atherosclerosis," a condition in which the artery walls thicken thanks to an accumulation of fat. He adds: "It is now something to think about at every meal."
The study also revealed that participants with higher blood triglyceride levels seemed to enjoy the most health benefit from the Mediterranean meal. "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," Nigram adds.
Nigram and his team are presenting their findings at the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress in Toronto, which runs through Wednesday.