A recent study by the Universities of Cambridge and Southampton has found that nitrate, found in leafy green vegetables, may be good for the heart.
The NHS reports that the study found that nitrate acted as a blood thinner, lowering the red blood cell count of the animals used in the experiment.
It says “While red blood cells are needed to supply enough oxygen, they can also lead to an increase in the blood’s “viscosity” or thickness, which may impair blood flow” and that with thicker blood comes “the risk of a blood clot developing, which can lead to serious complications, such as a heart attack, stroke or pulmonary embolism.”
Cambridge News quotes Dr. Andrew Murray, a co-lead on the study, as saying “nitrate from the diet can help regulate the delivery of oxygen to cells and tissues and its use, matching oxygen supply and demand,” and that it “ensures cells and tissues in the body have enough oxygen to function without needing to over produce red blood cells, which can make the blood too thick and compromise health.”
As a bonus, the study’s lead author, Dr. Tom Ashmore, said “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.”
Cambridge News says achieving the desired levels of nitrate consumption is as simple as “eating a few more leafy greens or beetroot.” The NHS offers a list of nitrate rich foods, which includes lettuce, beets, carrots, green beans, spinach, parsley, cabbage, radishes, celery, and collard greens.
It also warns consumers not to be taken in too much by the results, pointing out that “It is important to remember that high levels of nitrates can be toxic, which is why there are safety limits for the level of nitrates in drinking water. High nitrate levels are especially harmful for infants.”
In another study, published in Diabetes, the researchers identified nitrate’s ability to stimulate conversion of white, or bad, fat cells into beige cells in a process called browning.
Beige cells are more similar to ‘good’ brown fat cells and burn fat to produce heat, suggesting that simple dietary changes could reduce the number of bad white fat cells we have, reducing the risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes.