Researchers have found that eating bananas and avocados can help prevent heart attacks and strokes. The potassium present in the fruits combats the hardening and narrowing of arteries.
A potassium-rich diet also reduces the risk of aortic stiffness. Both bananas and avocados are rich in potassium, which reduces vascular calcification, a common complication of both heart and kidney disease.
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.
A team led by Yabing Chen, a professor at the University of Alabama, explored this mechanism of vascular disease three ways: living mice fed diets that varied in potassium, mouse artery cross-sections studied in culture medium with varying concentrations of potassium and mouse vascular smooth muscle cells grown in culture medium.
The researchers determined a causative link between reduced dietary potassium and vascular calcification in atherosclerosis, as well as uncovered the underlying pathogenic mechanisms.
“The findings 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, a professor at the University of Alabama.
The team of researchers analyzed mice that were at a risk of heart disease when fed a high-diet. These mice were given diets that were either low, normal or had high levels of potassium.
The results suggested that arteries of mice fed a low-potassium diet were significantly harder, as compared to those who fed on a high potassium diet and had substantially less artery hardening.
The mice that were fed potassium-rich foods also had reduced stiffness in their aorta- body’s main artery. This may have been due to low potassium levels in the blood preventing the expression of genes that maintain the artery flexibility.
The results also provide new targets for potential therapies to prevent or treat atherosclerotic vascular calcification and arterial stiffness, the researchers added.
It is advised to consume 3,500mg of potassium a day and four bananas can contribute half of that amount. However, eating too much can cause stomach ache, nausea and diarrhoea. The study was published in the journal JCI Insight.