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Junk Food Hurts Your Arteries, But Healthy Meal Might Help

WEDNESDAY, Oct. 31 (HealthDay News) -- Every junk-food meal you eat damages your arteries, while Mediterranean-type meals do no harm -- and may even have a beneficial effect, according to a new study.

Junk-food meals are composed mainly of harmful saturated fat, while Mediterranean-style meals are rich in good fats such as mono- and polyunsaturated fatty acids, according to the researchers from the Montreal Heart Institute, which is affiliated with the University of Montreal.

The study included 28 nonsmoking men who ate a Mediterranean-style meal first and then a junk-food meal a week later. The Mediterranean meal included salmon, almonds and vegetables cooked in olive oil. The junk-food meal included a sandwich made with sausage, egg and cheese, along with three hash browns.

The researchers assessed how the meals affected the inner lining (endothelium) of the blood vessels. Endothelial function, which determines how well blood vessels dilate (or open), is closely linked to the long-term risk of developing heart disease.

After eating the junk-food meal, the participants' arteries dilated 24 percent less than they did when they hadn't eaten. After the Mediterranean meal, the participants' arteries dilated normally and maintained good blood flow, the investigators found.

The researchers also measured the participants' triglyceride levels. Triglycerides are a type of fat in the blood that can cause narrowing of the arteries. The study authors found that people with higher blood triglyceride levels seemed to benefit more from the Mediterranean meal. Their arteries responded better to the meal than the arteries of people with low triglyceride levels.

"We believe that a Mediterranean-type diet may be particularly beneficial for individuals with high triglyceride levels ... precisely because it could help keep arteries healthy," study leader Dr. Anil Nigam, director of research at the Cardiovascular Prevention and Rehabilitation Center at Montreal Heart Institute, said in a university news release.

The study was scheduled for presentation Tuesday at the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress in Toronto. The data and conclusions of research presented at medical meetings should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

More information

The American Heart Association has more about the Mediterranean diet.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: University of Montreal, news release, Oct. 30, 2012

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