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21 May 2014 08:37
Combining olive oil with nitrate-rich salads make the foods even healthier, researchers say
A Mediterranean holiday offers travellers the chance to get plenty of sunshine and visit some of Europe's best-known sights at the same time.
But it also provides holidaymakers with the ideal opportunity to acquire a taste for the Mediterranean diet, which has long been said to hold health benefits.
And while they would be well advised to take out specialist travel insurance for their trip, holidaymakers can - a new British and American study suggests - ensure they keep their blood pressure under control by tucking into Greek salads and other healthy Mediterranean favourites.
For researchers have found that the unsaturated fat in olive oil, nuts and avocados combine with the nitrates found in vegetables such as lettuce, celery, spinach and carrots to inhibit an enzyme associated with high blood pressure.
Their tests on mice showed that combining the foods resulted in the formation of nitro-fatty acids which counter high blood pressure by suppressing the enzyme.
The results suggest that drizzling olive oil over a nitrate-rich salad or sprinkling some nuts or slices of avocado on top of it will make it even healthier.
Led by Dr Philip Eaton, of King's College, London, the research was co-funded by the British Heart Foundation.
The charity's Dr Sanjay Thakrar said the results helped explain why a Mediterranean diet appeared to have health benefits for the heart.
He said although further research was now required, the study's results showed how high blood pressure - one of the main risk factors for heart disease - could be countered by a compound such as the nitro-fatty acids.
The study has been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal.
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