Pouring oil
May 20, 2014

How Does A Diet Rich In Olive Oil Help Control Blood Pressure?

April Flowers for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online

Researchers have been telling us for a while now that the Mediterranean diet can be helpful in many health situations - from diabetes to peripheral artery disease. Most especially, they have touted the benefits of such a diet for reducing blood pressure. However, they haven't really been able to explain why it is so beneficial in this way.

A new study from King's College London, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), suggests that a diet combining unsaturated fats (olive oil) with nitrite-rich vegetables (lettuce) can protect you from hypertension.

A typical Mediterranean diet meal includes unsaturated fats found in olive oil, nuts and avocados, as well as vegetables such as spinach, celery and carrots that are nitrate- and nitrite-rich. The combination of these two food groups causes a reaction between the nitrogen compounds and the unsaturated fats, resulting in the formation of nitro fatty acids.

The research team used a mouse model to examine the process by which these nitro fatty acids lower blood pressure. Funded by the British Heart Foundation, the team investigated whether the fatty acids inhibited an enzyme known as soluble Epoxide Hydrolase, known to regulate blood pressure.

Two groups of mice were used for this study: one group of normal mice, and another genetically engineered to be resistant to this inhibitory process. The normal mice were found to have lower blood pressure after consuming nitro fatty acids, while the inhibited mice maintained their blood pressure following the same diet.

The researchers conclude that the protective effect of the Mediterranean diet is due, at least in part, from the soluble Epoxide Hydrolase inhibition by nitro fatty acids generated from the combination of unsaturated fats and vegetables abundant in nitrite and nitrate.

Professor Philip Eaton, Professor of Cardiovascular Biochemistry at King's College London, said, "The findings of our study help to explain why previous research has shown that a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil or nuts can reduce the incidence of cardiovascular problems like stroke, heart failure and heart attacks."