Eating just one cup of leafy green vegetables every day could boost muscle function, according to new research from Edith Cowan University (ECU).
The study, published today in the Nutrition Magazine, found that people who ate a diet rich in nitrates, predominantly vegetables, had significantly better muscle function in their lower limbs.
Poor muscle function is linked to an increased risk of falls and fractures and is considered a key indicator of overall health and well-being.
The researchers examined data from 3,759 Australians who took part in the AusDiab study from the Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute in Melbourne over a 12-year period. They found that those with the highest regular nitrate intake had 11 percent more strength in their lower extremities than those with the lowest nitrate intake. Walking speeds of up to 4 percent faster were also recorded.
Lead researcher Dr. Marc Sim, from ECU’s Institute for Nutrition Research, said the findings reveal important evidence for the role diet plays in overall health.
“Our study has shown that diets rich in nitrates can enhance muscle strength regardless of any physical activity,” he said.
“However, to optimize muscle function, we propose that a balanced diet rich in green leafy vegetables in combination with regular exercise, including weight training, is ideal.”
Muscle function is vital to maintaining overall good health, especially future bone strength.
“With around one in three Australians over the age of 65 experiencing a fall each year, it is important to find ways to prevent these events and their potentially serious consequences,” said Dr Sim.
Go for the green
While leafy greens may be some of our least favorite vegetables, they could be the most important, according to Dr. Sim.
The research found that nitrate-rich vegetables, such as lettuce, spinach, kale, and even beets, provided the most health benefits.
“Fewer than one in ten Australians eat the recommended five to six servings of vegetables per day,” said Dr Sim.
“We should eat a variety of vegetables every day, and at least one of those servings should be leafy greens for a variety of positive cardiovascular and musculoskeletal health benefits.”
“It is also best to eat nitrate-rich vegetables as part of a healthy diet rather than taking supplements. Green leafy vegetables provide a wide range of essential vitamins and minerals critical for health.”
The study, a collaboration with the Deakin University Institute for Physical Activity and Nutrition and the Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute, builds on Dr. Sim’s previous research on the function of nitrates and muscles in older women. .
It also adds to growing evidence linking vegetables to cardiovascular health, including a recent ECU study on cruciferous vegetables and blood vessel health.
Dr. Sim said the next step in his research will be to explore strategies to increase the consumption of green leafy vegetables in the general population.
“We are currently recruiting for the MODEL study, which examines how knowledge of the disease can be used to drive people to make long-term improvements in their diet and exercise,” said Dr. Sim.
Green leafy vegetables can prevent liver steatosis
Marc Sim et al, Dietary nitrate intake is positively associated with muscle function in men and women regardless of physical activity levels, The Nutrition Magazine (2020). DOI: 10.1093 / jn / nxaa415
Provided by Edith Cowan University
Citation: Green Leafy Vegetables Essential for Muscle Strength (2021, March 24) Retrieved March 25, 2021 from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2021-03-green-leafy-vegetables-essential-muscle.html
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