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Vegetarians in Paradise
Vegetarianism in the News

January 1, 2002 -- Vegparadise News Bureau

Five a Day Helps Keep
a Heart Attack at Bay

Those who pop an aspirin daily to prevent a heart attack may gain similar results by eating a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, herbs, and spices. Most nutrition authorities are currently recommending at least five servings of fruits and vegetables daily for their antioxidant properties in combating heart disease and cancer.

In a study conducted in Scotland, Dr. James Lawrence and Dr. John Paterson revealed that vegetarians had high blood levels of natural salicylic acid. This high level of salicylic acid may explain why vegetarians are less susceptible to heart disease and cancer. The results of the study were reported in the July 2001 issue of the Journal of Clinical Pathology.

Lawrence and Paterson took blood samples from three groups: nonvegetarians from the community, vegetarian Buddhist monks in a local monastery, and patients from a diabetic clinic who took 75 mg of aspirin each day. The vegetarians had higher salicylic levels than the nonvegetarians, but the patients on aspirin had SA contents greater than that of the vegetarians. Some of the monks had SA levels as high as the levels in diabetic patients. Eight of the 37 vegetarians had SA concentrations higher than those found in the aspirin group while 6 of the 14 patients in the aspirin group had concentrations lower than the highest vegetarian value.

Salicylic acid, present in aspirin, is commonly used to treat inflammation. Many cardiac specialists recommend aspirin to their patients as a heart attack preventive. The aspirin acts to deter atherosclerosis, an inflammation of the artery walls due to a buildup of fatty deposits. Before aspirin was used to treat atherosclerosis, salicylic acid was employed for that purpose. Aspirin, the generic name for acetylsalicylic acid, becomes salicylic acid 20 minutes after entering the bloodstream.

Herbs and spices have the highest concentration of salicylic acid. Included in this group are cayenne, cinnamon, curry, dill, mustard, oregano, paprika, rosemary, sage, tarragon, thyme, mint, black pepper, bay leaves, basil, caraway, ginger, and nutmeg.

Vegetables with a high level of salicylic acid encompass broccoli, chili pepper, cucumber, okra, spinach, squash, sweet potato, green pepper, radish, zucchini, and tomato processed as tomato paste or canned tomatoes.

Fruits high in salicylic acid include raisins, prunes, raspberries, apricots, blackberries, blueberries, boysenberries, cantaloupe, cherries, cranberries, currants, dates, guava, oranges, pineapples, plums, and strawberries.

Unlike the salicylic acid in aspirin, the natural SA derived from vegetables, fruits, herbs, and spices does not have anti-clotting capability. Both natural and synthetic salicylic acid reduce inflammation in the arteries to help prevent narrowing and hardening of the arteries.

Lenore Hodges, chairperson of the Vegetarian Nutrition Dietetic Practice Group, believes that natural salicylic acid may be a phytochemical that battles disease-creating free radicals. She points out that whole grain breads are high in salicylic acid and contain approximately 800 phytochemicals. White bread contains approximately 8.

Hodges explains that this SA research explains why vegetarians have better health for longer periods of time. "It's very important to include more plant food into your meals," she says. "A lot of people don't even eat one fruit or vegetable during the day."

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