(NaturalNews) A recent two-year international study demonstrated that a long-term weight loss plan featuring the reduction of calories and processed foods with an increase in vegetables can reduce blood pressure and reverse atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).
The subjects, mostly men, included 140 overweight workers at Israel`s Dimona Nuclear Research Center. Head researcher Dr. Iris Shai, from Ben Gurion University of the Negev in Israel, said the study sought not only to restrict calories, but also to educate subjects and their spouses on healthy eating regimens for weight loss. The research center`s cafeteria managers cooperated with clinicians and nutritional advisors to provide healthy meals, changing the food service program in accordance with each of the three diet regimens. The spouses cooperated on the home front to provide the same required foods.
Probably because of such cooperation at work and at home, the study achieved an unprecedented result in the adherence rates. The first year achieved 95 percent adherence; after the second 85 percent stayed with the diet.
All three diets, which featured an increase in vegetables and the omission of trans-fats and processed foods, combined with calorie reduction, led to weight loss. In most diets, the dieters lose weight at first and start re-gaining after six months. This regimen showed that there might be some weight gained back, but a long-term change to one of these diet strategies can reduce carotid atherosclerosis. This is most true for those who are mildly obese and experience a decrease of more than ten pounds in weight and more than seven mmHg in systolic blood pressure.
The main diet changes call for reducing the amount of red meat, eating more fruits and veggies and eliminating as many sugars as possible, including alcohol and fruit juices.
The five most critical foods to avoid are doughnuts, chips, fried non-fish seafood, soda and French fries. If these items could gradually be replaced by dark green and cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, collard greens, kale, mustard greens, turnip greens, Brussel sprouts), spinach and Swiss chard, over time, weight will come off and arteries will become less clogged.
The scientists measured changes in carotid artery vessel thickening caused by plaque. At the end of the two years, there was a five percent decrease in average carotid vessel-wall volume and a one percent decrease in carotid artery thickness. Dr. Shai was especially interested in the finding that the changes to the vessel wall volume, caused solely by diet changes, could actually be seen and measured in the arteries.
Mediterranean and low-carbohydrate diets were the most effective for inducing weight loss. More favorable effects on lipids were obtained with the low-carbohydrate diet, while glycemic control (fasting glucose levels) among the study`s diabetics improved with the Mediterranean diet. The weight loss itself is what brought about the changes in blood pressure and plaque.
A major factor in the study was the cooperation of the workplace. It clearly can be seen that such health-improving changes as artery wall thinning and lowering of blood pressure, along with weight control, involve the cooperation of both the subject`s home and work environment.
The importance of the study is not only in regard to the ramifications for weight loss, but also in the fact that atherosclerosis and blood pressure are direct risk factors for strokes and heart attacks. Even though atherosclerosis increases with age, there are tools which can reverse the process.