Dr. Anil Nigam and colleagues at the University of Montreal-affiliated EPIC Center of the Montreal Heart Institute, compared the effects of a junk-food meal and a typical Mediterranean meal on the vascular endothelium, the inner lining of the blood vessels. Endothelial function is closely linked to the long-term risk of developing coronary artery disease.
The study involved 28 non-smoking men, who underwent an ultrasound of an artery at the elbow crease after fasting for 12 hours to assess their baseline endothelial function. The Mediterranean meal was composed of salmon, almonds and vegetables cooked in olive oil, with 51 percent of total calories mostly from monounsaturated fatty acids and polyunsaturated fats, or "good" fat. One week later, the second meal consisted of a sandwich made of a sausage, an egg, a slice of cheese and three hash browns, with 58 percent of total calories from fat, mostly saturated fatty acids.
Two hours and 4 hours after each meal, participants underwent further ultrasounds to assess how the food had impacted their endothelial function.
The study found after eating the junk-food meal, the arteries dilated 24 percent less than they did when in the fasting state, while the arteries dilated -- expanded -- normally and maintained good blood flow after the Mediterranean-type meal.
"Poor endothelial function is one of the most significant precursors of atherosclerosis," Nigam told the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress meeting in Toronto.