Eating one banana and an avocado a day may prevent hardening of the arteries that can result in heart disease and death, researchers have found. The study, conducted on mice, showed these foods that are rich in potassium reduces vascular calcification — common complication in both heart and kidney disease.
Calcification happens when calcium builds up in body tissue, blood vessels, or organs. This buildup can harden and disrupt your body’s normal processes. A potassium rich diet also reduces the risk of aortic stiffness — a classic cardiovascular risk factor.
The hardening or stiffening of the arteries is called arteriosclerosis. The stiffness of arteries influences how hard the heart has to work to pump blood through the body.
“The findings have important translational potential, since they demonstrate the benefit of adequate potassium supplementation on prevention of vascular calcification in atherosclerosis-prone mice, and the adverse effect of low potassium intake,” said Paul Sanders, professor at the University of Alabama.
For the study, published in the journal JCI Insight, the team analysed mice who are at-risk of heart disease when fed a high-fat diet. These mice were given diets that are either low, normal or had high levels of potassium.
The results revealed the arteries of mice fed a low-potassium diet became significantly harder, while those fed on a high potassium diet had substantially less artery hardening. Mice fed potassium-rich food also had reduced stiffness in their aorta — the body’s main artery.
This may be due to low-potassium levels in the blood preventing the expression of genes that maintain artery flexibility. The results also provides new targets for potential therapies to prevent or treat atherosclerotic vascular calcification and arterial stiffness, the researchers added.