Leafy greens thin blood and help oxygen circulation: Study

By Annie Harrison-Dunn

- Last updated on GMT

"The only downfall is some people don’t like vegetables," says researcher on heart health nitrate research
"The only downfall is some people don’t like vegetables," says researcher on heart health nitrate research

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Nitrate from leafy greens may thin the blood and help oxygen circulate around the body more efficiently, according to one of three studies conducted by the University of Cambridge and Southampton.

The first of the papers, published in the Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, ​looked at the how nitrate-rich vegetables like spinach could reduce the production of the hormone erythropoietin, which determines red blood cell counts and thereby impacts our capacity to circulate oxygen and how thick our blood is.

The British Heart Foundation, which part-funded the research, said the findings highlighted how a simple change in diet could help alleviate symptoms of people suffering from certain heart defects and high blood pressure, and reduce the risk of stroke and heart attack.

The paper comes as part of a trio of investigations by the same researchers, published in The Journal of Physiology ​and Diabetes​, which all looked at the blood-thinning and heart-health properties of dietary nitrate.

Simple, cheap dietary solution

Professor Martin Feelisch, who co-led the study, said: “These findings suggest simple dietary changes may offer treatments for people suffering from heart and blood vessel diseases that cause too many red blood cells to be produced. It is also exciting as it may have broader implications in sport science, and could aid recovery of patients in intensive care by helping us understand how oxygen can be delivered to our cells more efficiently.”

The researchers worked with Xtreme Everest to film blood flow through capillaries at sea level and 6400 meters above sea level. They suggested that nitrate could help people with cardiovascular conditions associated with living at high altitudes, which can make blood thicker and harder to pass through small blood vessels.

Another lead author, ​Dr Tom Ashmore, commented: “The best thing about nitrate is that it is not expensive, treatment is not invasive and not much is needed to observe a significant effect. The only downfall is some people don’t like vegetables.”

Three pronged

The paper published in The Journal of Physiology ​looked at nitrate’s ability to ease symptoms of different heart and circulatory diseases by protecting key heart cell proteins and increase the heart’s pump efficiently.

The final study published in Diabetes​ looked at nitrate’s capacity to stimulate conversion of white 'bad' fat cells into beige cells, which burn fat to produce heat.

Source: FASEB

Published online ahead of print, doi:10.1096/fj.14-263004fj.14-263004

“Suppression of erythropoiesis by dietary nitrate”

Authors: T. Ashmore, B. O. Fernandez, Colin E. Evans, Y. Huang, C. Branco-Price, J. L. Griffin, R. S. Johnson, M. Feelisch and A. J. Mu​rray

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