Unusual supplement could reduce risk of heart disease

Professor Hugh Watkins on genetic medicines for heart disease

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According to Mr Batt, seaweed could play a role in helping reduce the risk of heart disease due to its content of omega-3 fatty acids – a chemical known to help maintain cardiovascular health.

Mr Matt told Express.co.uk: “Omega-3 fatty acids make up the core structural components of many cell walls, and help them function and communicate properly.

“This leads to healthier artery wall functions, as well as cardiomyocyte (heart cell) function, as well as healthier immune cell function – inflammation.”

Mr Batt added omega-3 fatty acids found in seaweed had a range of other health benefits including:
• Reducing inflammation
• Reducing blood lipids
• Reducing blood sugar
• Reducing the risk of atherosclerosis
• Lowering blood pressure
• Decreasing the risk of arrhythmias
• Reducing platelet aggregation.

While seaweed has some health benefits, this doesn’t mean every type of seaweed is beneficial to heart health; there are four specific types of seaweed which are beneficial.

These four are:
• Wakame
• Wire Weed
• Purple pampas grass
• Red harpoon.

Wakame is high in omega-3 fatty acids while wire weed “contains similar beneficial omega three and six fatty acids”, said Mr Batt. Furthermore, purple pampas grass also contains fatty acids and red harpoon contains what Mr Batt described as “reasonable levels” of the chemical.

He added that seaweed was a “good option for vegans needing to get omega-3’s on board, and can be a good way of varying the sources of omega-3 fatty acids that fish eaters get (as some fish may be contaminated with heavy metals)”.

This isn’t the first time seaweed has been linked to a reduced risk of heart disease, a recent study suggested a popular dish featuring the ingredient was linked to positive overall health.

Seaweed is one of the key ingredients found in a popular Japanese dish known as sunomono. A recent study found that men who regularly eat this dish are more likely to have lower blood pressure.

Sunomono is a traditional dish made with sliced seaweed in rice vinegar. It is often served as a side dish with a main meal and eaten by older generations in Japan. However, it is possible to get it in the UK.

Lead study author Professor Kanouchi said the study also linked into the benefits of another key ingredient in the dish: “The benefits of vinegar in a healthy diet are well known. Our research is the first observational study of these benefits; we didn’t ask participants to change anything.

“Vinegar is hard to observe because it isn’t a big ingredient in meals; you might get a little in vinaigrette or pickles, but people rarely drink the pickle’s vinegar brine. In sunomono, vinegar is part of the dish, people usually finish it.”

Whilst analysing the data from the study, they found men who ate it often saw a drop in their blood pressure levels.

Professor Kanouch added: “Men who did not habitually eat sunomono had significantly higher blood pressure, even though their weight and BMI were the same. We believe it could be promoting growth of good gut microbiota, but we would need more studies to confirm that.

“We are not sure how the vinegar causes these health benefits; increasing vinegar consumption doesn’t lead to further improvement in blood pressure. “However, diet is one of the easiest things to change! I want everyone to know that even occasionally eating sunomono could make a difference in blood pressure.”

Furthermore, there are a couple of caveats to note in regard to this study and seaweed.

Firstly, the study was not primarily on seaweed but vinegar; despite this it provides useful associated information on the presence of the plant in healthy dishes.

Secondly, the study was observational rather than causational; this means it cannot draw a conclusion from its observations. Instead, it can only suggest a link between one entity and another.

Nevertheless, the results show the impact of diet on heart disease risk and how it can be used to increase someone’s longevity.

Other ways to reduce one’s risk of heart disease include:
• Regular exercise
• Quitting smoking
• Reducing alcohol consumption.

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