Unclogging Your Pipes

March 19, 2010 in Blog Recipes, Diabetic Menu Item, Mediterranean, Nutrition by Joyce Bunderson

A new study found something different, something really wonderful – they found that there was actually less heart-clogging plaque after a two-year weight loss diet. They measured carotid arteries with ultrasound (Those big arteries that go up to the brain supplying oxygenated blood to the large, front part of the brain, where speech, thinking, personality, sensory and motor functions are located.). They found measurably less atherosclerosis (guck, inside those very important arteries.) That is amazing!

Researchers from across the earth (Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Israel; University of Western Ontario, Canada; University of Leipzig, Germany; Harvard Medical School and Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts; and the University of Colorado, Denver have collaborated to publish a study in The American Heart Association’s publication Circulation.

It didn’t seem to matter which of the three heart-healthy diets were followed; the researchers found essentially no difference between the three methods used for the weight loss – low-fat, low-carbohydrate, or Mediterranean - they all had similar results – there was a reversal in the thickening of artery walls that can lead to heart attack and stroke.

This is a really interesting and full-of-hope concept.

The lead researcher, a nutritional epidemiologist in Israel, Iris Shai Ph.D., R.D. said, “Once one adheres to a sensible diet, even thought you experience only a moderate weight loss, if you stick to it long enough you can cause regression of atherosclerosis.”

After two years the researchers found moderate weight loss and reduction in blood pressure, in addition to the slightly less clogged artery walls.

All three diets had some dietary elements in common:

  • An increase in consumption of fruits and vegetables
  • Decreased consumption of dangerous trans fats, especially those found in processed foods.

A past president of the American Heart Association, Dr. Robert H. Eckel, professor of medicine at the University of Colorado, said; “The message seems to be that weight loss, no matter how you accomplish it, is good for the carotid artery.” I’d say that we should look very long and hard at the two components found in common with the three diets; more fruits and vegetables and less trans fats from processed foods. Certainly there will be more research; and maybe they will learn that eating more fruits and vegetables and less processed foods were what the benefits were linked to. I’m suggesting that we shouldn’t wait to find out – we should choose to eat more fruits and vegetables and less processed foods.

I have been recommending throughout these blogs that a good way to do this is do adopt a permanent style of eating.  Many others, including myself call it the Mediterranean-style.  It is different from a traditional weight-loss diet, because it is a life-style change, not something you go on then go off.  I agree with Dr. Neal Bernard in his book Breaking the Food Seduction: The Hidden Reasons Behind Food Cravings---And 7 Steps to End Them Naturally. Going on (and off and on again) most diets actually makes the problem worse, because most diets usually do not keep blood sugar up high enough to last ‘till the next meal. So your body sends you on a food hunt. Moreover, dieting reduces Leptin, the substance our bodies make to tame our hunger and cravings – gets us to stop eating when we have had enough.  Dieting makes your body feel like you are being starved, and it adapts by reducing your Leptin and thus increasing your hunger. People who go on and off diets actually make it MUCH harder to attain a healthy body and body weight. Although Eckel’s team studied people who lost weight on low-fat, low-carbohydrate or Mediterranean eating plans, they were “heart healthy eating plans, with increased fruits and vegetables”, not traditional weight loss diets. Most importantly, they had stuck to them for two years or more.

Getting back to Dr. Eckel and the study’s findings: Even though the reduction in blood pressure was probably the most important dietary effect, Eckel said, “With weight reduction many things change in the right direction.”

Dr. Eckel went on to stress that, anyone wanting to benefit his or her arteries and blood pressure from weight loss, must be prepared to stick with it over the long run.

The moderate weight loss appears to have helped the individuals to achieve at least three of the American Heart Association’s 7 Keys to a Healthy Heart or The Simple 7 – to lose weight*, to manage blood pressure* and to eat better*.

  • Get Active
  • Control Cholesterol
  • Eat Better*
  • Manage Blood Pressure*
  • Lose Weight*
  • Reduce Blood Sugar
  • Stop Smoking

It’s an exciting concept to be able to do something nice for your body and brain, by just eating a little healthier and in the process losing some weight. I continue to strive to introduce you to new vegetables or new ways to cook vegetables in the hope that you will discover that Good Health Can Be Yummy. For this post I've created the recipe Grandma’s Greens and Beans.

We enjoyed this very flavorful recipe as a side dish served with salmon; but it’s certainly nourishing enough to be served as the main dish. Other greens can be substituted for the curly mustard greens or you can use a mixture of greens.