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Dr Lauren Blekkenhorst

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Dr Lauren Blekkenhorst

Vegetable types and their bioactives: growing the evidence for cardiovascular health benefits

Dr Lauren Blekkenhorst, Edith Cowan University

2019 Postdoctoral Fellowship

Years funded: 2020-2023

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) kills one person every 12 minutes in Australia. Most of these deaths can be prevented by modifying lifestyle factors, including increasing vegetable intake. Despite this knowledge, less than 1 in 10 Australian adults meet current recommendations for vegetables. In addition, intake of vegetable types that are most strongly linked with health benefits, are often very low.

Over the past 5 years, my research has provided support for a growing body of evidence that not all vegetables provide equivalent cardiovascular health benefits. Some vegetables may provide substantially larger cardiovascular health benefits than others. Vegetables such as cruciferous (e.g. broccoli), allium (e.g. onion) and leafy green (e.g. spinach) vegetables are emerging to be the most protective. This is likely due to specific bioactive compounds present in these vegetables.

My research investigates which specific vegetables are most important for cardiovascular health and explores the likely role of certain bioactive compounds found in these vegetables. To do this, I aim to develop new comprehensive databases to reliably estimate the content of organosulfur compounds, which are found almost exclusively in cruciferous and allium vegetables. I will investigate these bioactive compounds with CVD and related outcomes in large cross-sectional and prospective cohort studies as well as randomised controlled trials.

This evidence will translate into national and international guidelines and will be the foundation to promote the increased intake of specific vegetables to reduce the burden of CVD. Currently, only half a serving of vegetables consumed every day by Australians are green and cruciferous-type vegetables. Intake of allium vegetables is likely to be even lower. If these vegetables do provide the most benefits for cardiovascular health, public health messages to increase these vegetables could substantially improve cardiovascular health and longevity of Australians.

Last updated12 July 2021