I am
Show me:
Show me:
Q&A with Lauren Blekkenhorst
heartfoundation.org.au|Helpline 13 11 12

Q&A with Lauren Blekkenhorst

Research to develop better evidence for the vascular and metabolic health benefits of vegetables and their bioactive constituents.

Dr Lauren Blekkenhorst is a Heart Foundation Postdoctoral Research Fellow within the School of Medical and Health Sciences at Edith Cowan University. Her research aims to develop better evidence for the vascular and metabolic health benefits of vegetables and their bioactive constituents as well as finding ways to increase vegetable consumption at a population level to improve healthy ageing. She has expertise in the design and conduct of randomised controlled trials and observational studies that focus on the vascular and metabolic health benefits of vegetables and their bioactive components.

What are you currently researching?

My research project will explore the health benefits of specific types of vegetables and their protective bioactive components, as well as finding new and improved ways to encourage people to eat more vegetables every day to improve their heart health.

What difference will your research make to people’s cardiovascular health in Australia? 

Most Australians have had their lives impacted by cardiovascular disease, from losing a loved one to caring for their loved ones after a heart attack or stroke. The vast majority of these devastating events can be prevented by modifying diet and lifestyle earlier in life. In particular, increasing the intake of vegetables is fundamental for cardiovascular disease prevention. Despite this knowledge, over 90% of Australian adults are still not meeting the recommended 5 servings of vegetables every day, with most eating well below these recommendations. In addition, intake of the types of vegetables that may provide larger benefits for cardiovascular health are even lower. If my research can demonstrate that specific types of vegetables are superior when it comes to improving cardiovascular health, then a small achievable change of eating more of these vegetables every day, will cause a greater reduction in cardiovascular disease burden for the same level of change in other vegetables being eaten. Better understanding of the bioactive components of these vegetables will also inform why we should be increasing consumption of these vegetables in our diets.

What were some of the key findings of your PhD?

During my PhD, I discovered a strong link between eating specific vegetables, such as cruciferous (e.g. broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale), allium (e.g. garlic, onion, leek) and leafy greens (e.g. spinach, lettuce, rocket), and their bioactives (e.g. nitrate), and cardiovascular health outcomes. My team and I were the first to publish on the potential long-term cardioprotective role of dietary nitrate, which is found predominantly in leafy green vegetables. I will now be able to delve deeper by researching the direct benefits of these vegetables and explore other novel bioactive compounds that are potentially responsible for health benefits.

How important was funding from the Heart Foundation for your work?

We all know that eating a wide variety of vegetables can reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease. Being awarded with funding from the National Heart Foundation of Australia will allow me to delve deeper and investigate which specific vegetables provide the greatest reduction in risk. The funding will also enable me to explore particular novel components found in these vegetables. Vegetables contain hundreds of plant compounds and we are only just at the tip of the iceberg in understanding their effects. It is vital that we base our dietary recommendations on scientific evidence to help Australians achieve optimal health throughout life. With the help of the National Heart Foundation of Australia and a large interdisciplinary team of researchers and clinicians, I am now able to establish high quality evidence on which vegetables are the best for cardiovascular health, and why.

Do you have a message for Heart Foundation supporters? 

I hope that my research will enlighten and motivate Australians to increase their vegetable consumption and to make healthier diet and lifestyle choices. This may in turn help prevent the substantial burden cardiovascular disease has on loved ones, and the wider community. 

You can find a range of heart healthy recipes website to incorporate more vegetables into your everyday meals benefiting your heart health. 

You might also be interested in

The Heart Foundation Alumni Program

The Heart Foundation Alumni Program

The Heart Foundation Alumni Program

Stay connected with your research alumni community. ...

Research Alumni

Research Alumni

Research Alumni

The Heart Foundation Alumni Program brings together current and previously funded researchers to create a community of the best and brightest in heart-related research....

Heart Foundation Research Award Recipients

Heart Foundation Research Award Recipients

Explore our research award recipients and projects...

WEBINAR | Research Alumni Series 2020

WEBINAR | Research Alumni Series 2020

WEBINAR | Research Alumni Series 2020

The Heart Foundation is delivering a research webinar series for Heart Foundation research alumni....

Life changing research currently underway

Life changing research currently underway

Life changing research currently underway

Search our current researcher's and the ground breaking research being undertaken....

Our research stories

Our research stories

Our research stories

We fund amazing researchers who have important stories to tell...

Thrombus-targeted theranostic microbubbles

Thrombus-targeted theranostic microbubbles

Thrombus-targeted theranostic microbubbles

Breaking down blood clots...

A simple test may lead to better treatment

A simple test may lead to better treatment

A simple test may lead to better treatment

Dr Jay Ramchand discusses his latest research project....

CVD and COVID-19 Grant

CVD and COVID-19 Grant

Grants to support ground-breaking research focused on COVID-19 and its interaction with heart conditions....

Intelligent microbubbles

Intelligent microbubbles

Intelligent microbubbles

What are microbubbles and why are they important?...

Managing your funding

Managing your funding

Managing your funding

Resources to help manage your grant, scholarship or fellowship....

Encouraging cardiovascular research excellence in NSW

Encouraging cardiovascular research excellence in NSW

Encouraging cardiovascular research excellence in NSW

A ground-breaking collaboration bringing together for the first time the state’s most eminent cardiovascular researchers...

Queensland Cardiovascular Research Network

Queensland Cardiovascular Research Network

Queensland Cardiovascular Research Network

QCVRN provides a framework to strengthen cardiovascular research in Queensland...

Research Award Recipients 2019

Research Award Recipients 2019

Recipients awarded in 2019, commencing research projects in 2020. ...

Research Award Recipients 2020

Research Award Recipients 2020

Recipients awarded in 2020, commencing research projects in 2021. ...

Applying for research funding with the Heart Foundation

Applying for research funding with the Heart Foundation

Applying for research funding with the Heart Foundation

Discover more about our various funding programs, requirements, and application dates now....

Research funding programs

Research funding programs

Research funding programs

Our research funding supports outstanding researchers who share our vision of an Australia free from heart disease. ...

Apply for funding

Apply for funding

Apply for funding

Visit our research funding portal to apply for Heart Fundation funding...

The Heart Foundation Research Program

The Heart Foundation Research Program

The Heart Foundation Research Program

We are Australia’s biggest non-government funder of world-class research into heart health. Learn more about our high impact research. ...

Associate Professor Andrew Steer

Associate Professor Andrew Steer

Award-winning heart research could help prevent rheumatic heart disease....

Associate Professor Nadine Kasparian

Associate Professor Nadine Kasparian

Associate Professor Nadine Kasparian

Understanding the connections between our physical and mental health....

Q&A with Dr. Dion Stub

Q&A with Dr. Dion Stub

Q&A with Dr. Dion Stub

Treating patients when their heart stops beating...

Q&A with Dr Hashrul Rashid

Q&A with Dr Hashrul Rashid

Q&A with Dr Hashrul Rashid

Finding ways to detect leaflet thrombosis (LT) earlier to improve health outcomes....

A Q&A with Dr Janet Bray

A Q&A with Dr Janet Bray

Helping to improve bystander CPR rates and save hundreds of lives in Australia each year....

Michelle Bovill

Michelle Bovill

Michelle Bovill

Co-developing health information appropriate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander communities....

Encouraging cardiovascular research excellence in South Australia

Encouraging cardiovascular research excellence in South Australia

Encouraging cardiovascular research excellence in South Australia

Western Australian Cardiovascular Research Alliance

Western Australian Cardiovascular Research Alliance

Western Australian Cardiovascular Research Alliance

WACRA are the peak leadership body in Western Australian advancing research into heart, stroke and vascular disease to accelerate translation and improve health outcomes....

Clinical Guidelines

Clinical Guidelines

Clinical Guidelines

Full list of clinical guidlines and references for CVD, heart failure, ACS, hypertension, atrial fibrillation, SCAD and RHD...

Are you at risk of heart disease?

Are you at risk of heart disease?

Are you at risk of heart disease?

There is no single cause for any one heart condition, but there are risk factors that increase your chance of developing one. ...

Support and resources for health care professionals

Support and resources for health care professionals

Support and resources for health care professionals

Our range of clinical and patient support resources are available for you to use in your daily practice....

Fundraise to save Australian hearts

Fundraise to save Australian hearts

Fundraise to save Australian hearts

Join the Heart Foundation community. Together, we can make a real difference for Australian hearts. ...

Support us and help save Australian hearts

Support us and help save Australian hearts

Support us and help save Australian hearts

Join the fight against Australia’s biggest killer by supporting the Heart Foundation.  ...

Heart Foundation Recovery Support and Resources

Heart Foundation Recovery Support and Resources

Heart Foundation Recovery Support and Resources

Heart Foundation programs and resources to support your recovery....

Aboriginal heart health

Aboriginal heart health

Aboriginal heart health

Visit the St Vincents Hospital NSW and Heart Foundation Aboriginal heart health website for more information...

Heart Healthy Dinner Plan

Heart Healthy Dinner Plan

Heart Healthy Dinner Plan

Sign up now and discover delicious, easy to follow dinner recipes. Plus shopping lists, tips and other helpful information to make healthy eating easy. ...

Help Keep families together this Christmas

Help Keep families together this Christmas

Help Keep families together this Christmas

Together, we can make heart disease history. Donate today to help fund ground-breaking heart research and keep families together this Christmas. ...

COVID-19 info & FAQs

COVID-19 info & FAQs

COVID-19 info & FAQs

Information and FAQs about COVID-19 and heart disease....

Acute rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease

Acute rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease

The Australian Guideline for Prevention, Diagnosis and Management of Acute Rheumatic Fever and Rheumatic Heart Disease (2nd Edition)​....

Snack recipes

Snack recipes

Snack recipes

Search for healthy snack ideas...

10 ways to get the right balance of fats 

10 ways to get the right balance of fats 

10 ways to get the right balance of fats 

Getting the right balance of fats in your diet can improve your heart health....

Fruit, vegetables and heart health

Fruit, vegetables and heart health

Fruit, vegetables and heart health

How to boost your fruit and vegetable intake to help protect your heart. ...

Women's heart stories

Women's heart stories

Women's heart stories

Women's stories from around Australia...

Sorting out your finances after a heart attack

Sorting out your finances after a heart attack

Sorting out your finances after a heart attack

Explore how to manage your financial concerns after a heart attack. ...

Heart attack recovery – your first month

Heart attack recovery – your first month

Heart attack recovery – your first month

Explore the Heart Foundation’s guide on what to expect in the first month after your heart attack. ...

CVD risk assessment for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults

CVD risk assessment for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults

This consensus statement contains recommendations for assessing CVD risk in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults aged under 35....

Join Kate in making a difference to future generations

Join Kate in making a difference to future generations

Join Kate in making a difference to future generations

Kate wanted to find a way she could make a difference to future generations...

Physical activity after a heart attack

Physical activity after a heart attack

Physical activity after a heart attack

Discover what you need to know about being active after a heart attack....

Lunch recipes

Lunch recipes

Lunch recipes

Search our lunch recipe ideas...

Medical tests for heart disease

Medical tests for heart disease

Medical tests for heart disease

Learn about the common tests your doctor may want you to have to diagnose your heart condition....

State based advocacy

State based advocacy

State based advocacy activity supporting local communities...

Cardiac Rehabilitation for Health Professionals - Patient Resources

Cardiac Rehabilitation for Health Professionals - Patient Resources

Lessons learned: recovering from open heart surgery

Lessons learned: recovering from open heart surgery

Lessons learned: recovering from open heart surgery

After having five open heart surgeries between the ages of 13 and 41, Peter knows a thing or two about recovery....

Raffles & Lotteries

Raffles & Lotteries

Raffles & Lotteries

Give yourself a chance to win $20,000 while helping the Heart Foundation to raise essential funds for heart research....

Key Statistics: Coronary Heart Disease

Key Statistics: Coronary Heart Disease

Meditation helped Grant recover from his heart attack

Meditation helped Grant recover from his heart attack

Meditation helped Grant recover from his heart attack

Thankfully for Grant Byrne, a lifelong Led Zeppelin fan, some quick thinking helped him avoid a stairway to heaven. Read Grant’s heart attack story now. ...

Pilbara Aboriginal Heart Health Program

Pilbara Aboriginal Heart Health Program

Pilbara Aboriginal Heart Health Program

The program works with local communities to help improve heart health in the Pilbara....

Clinical resources: Coronary heart disease and mental health

Clinical resources: Coronary heart disease and mental health

The prevalence of depression is high in patients with coronary heart disease (CHD)....