In the News: Spinach can give your heart extra strength

To those of us who remember Popeye the sailor man and his hearty spinach meals, spinach will forever be associated with his bulging muscles. Now it seems that spinach can give your heart extra strength as well.


Previous studies have shown that eating spinach regularly can reduce your risk of having a heart attack but the latest research reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal, shows that it can also boost your chances of survival by up to a third if you do have an attack. The crucial healing ingredient it appears is nitrite – found in high quantities in green vegetables such as spinach and lettuce.


Researchers from the University of Texas who carried out the spinach study recommend eating five to nine ounces of nitrite-rich vegetables a day, three times as much as is typically consumed on current estimates.


They found that mice whose drinking water was spiked with nitrite for a week before having a heart attack had a 33 per cent higher survival rates than those whose water was not spiked. The chemical’s benefits come from its conversion to the gas nitric oxide when oxygen levels are low during a heart attack. Nitric oxide widens closed or clogged arteries, increasing the supply of oxygen to the heart.


Studies from the 1960s once linked nitrate and nitrite to an increased risk of cancer but this research shows that this early research may have been based on very weak data and that nitrate and nitrite found in green leafy vegetables and in our saliva is beneficial.

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