Think Before You Eat!

Tempted to have a burger and fries this lunchtime?  It wouldn’t hurt once in a while, right?  Not so fast.  Maybe it is time to think outside the bun after all.

According to new research from the Montreal Heart Institute,  it’s not just a lifetime of bad eating habits that leads to heart disease –  every single junk food meal has a damaging effect on your arteries.

That’s right! Each and every meal, composed mainly of saturated fat, is detrimental to the health of the arteries.  On the other hand, no damage occurs after consuming a Mediterranean-style meal rich in “good fats” such as mono-and polyunsaturated fatty acids. Better still, the Mediterranean meal may even have a positive effect on your arteries.

These findings were presented at the recent Canadian Cardiovascular Congress, by Dr. Anil Nigam, Director of Research at the Cardiovascular Prevention and Rehabilitation Centre (ÉPIC) and associate professor at the university’s Faculty of Medicine.  He undertook a study to compare the effects of junk food and typical Mediterranean meal on the vascular endothelium – the inner lining of the blood vessels.  Endothelial function is known to be closely linked to the long-term risk of developing coronary artery disease.

28 non-smoking men participated in the study. Their endothelial function was assessed at baseline.  They were then given the Mediterranean-type meal, which was composed of salmon, almonds, and vegetables cooked in olive oil.  51% of total calories came from fat – mostly monounsaturated fatty acids and polyunsaturated fats.

A week later they were given the junk food-type meal, consisting of a sandwich made of a sausage, an egg, a slice of cheese, and three hash browns. This time, 58% of the total calories came from saturated fatty acids containing no Omega-3’s.

Two hours and four hours after each meal, participants underwent further ultrasounds to assess how the food had impacted their endothelial function.  They 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, the arteries were found to dilate normally and maintain good blood flow after the Mediterranean-type meal.

Additionally, subjects with higher blood triglyceride levels seemed to benefit more from the healthy meals than those with low triglyceride levels.

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,” predicts Dr. Nigam.  “These results will positively alter how we eat on a daily basis. Poor endothelial function is one of the most significant precursors of atherosclerosis. It is now something to think about at every meal.”

Oh la la!  Are you ready to ditch the junk food in favor of a little “je ne sais quoi.