The Mediterranean diet has long been touted as one of the best heart-healthy diets one can follow. People with high blood pressure that go on a Mediterranean diet and stay faithful to it often see their blood pressure numbers come way down without taking prescription medication. Although this effect is well known, no one could ever fully explain why this is so — until now.
The Research Finding
Researchers at King’s College in London have discovered the secret to the success of the Mediterranean diet in lowering blood pressure! The secret lies in the chemistry that happens inside your body when you eat a combination of leafy green vegetables and olive oil.
Chemistry Behind the benefits of
This particular dietary combination of leafy green vegetables and olive oil lower blood pressure by producing nitro fatty acids which block an enzyme called epoxide hydrolase that can contribute to high blood pressure. It is this chemical reaction between the nitrogen compounds in the green leafy vegetables and the unsaturated fatty acids in the olive oil that produces the heart healthy nitro fatty acids.
Combining olive oil with any nitrite-rich vegetable would have the same positive effect. For example, lightly sautéing Lacinato kale in olive oil on the stove top will produce the heart-saving nitro fatty acids. You could also prepare a big summer salad with mixed greens and garden vegetables tossed in a vinaigrette made with olive oil and lemon or unfiltered apple cider vinegar and get the same effect.
Other sources of nitro fatty acids
To make things even more interesting, you could substitute nut oils such as almond oil and/or avocado oils for the olive oil in the vinaigrette. Nut oils and avocado oil have very similar chemical properties to olive oil so they also produce nitro fatty acids when combined with green leafy vegetables. In fact, all nut oils have unsaturated fats that can combine with the nitrites in the green leafy vegetables to produce nitro fatty acids. Nut oils, such as walnut oil or hazelnut oil, provide a uniquely delicious flavor to any vinaigrette. You could also make creamy dressings with these oils too and still produce nitro fatty acids.
Role of the Mediterranean diet in lowering high blood pressure
The role of nitro fatty acids in the Mediterranean diet in lowering high blood pressure may surprise many who have been searching for clues as to why the Mediterranean diet has such a positive health benefit. When most scientists conduct these types of dietary studies, they look at only one variable. Scientists may study the effects of olive oil alone or they may study the effects of green leafy vegetables alone. However, this study is somewhat unique in that it closely examines the combination of two foods commonly associated with the same diet. While a combination of factors has been studied before, it is not done so often, and certainly not with such convincing results as was achieved in this study.
The King’s College study was led by Professor Philip Eaton who specializes in cardiovascular biochemistry. The work is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, one of the most prestigious scientific journals. This study should go a long way in convincing people who have a heart condition and those where cardiovascular disease runs in the family, that following a diet at least similar to the Mediterranean diet could prolong their life.