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Thursday, 28 June, 2001, 15:04 GMT 16:04 UK
Veggie diet 'protects heart'
Fruit  - and vegetables contain the key chemical
Fruit - and vegetables contain the key chemical
The presence of a key chemical in fruits and vegetables may explain why vegetarians are protected against heart disease.

The foods contain called salicylic acid which is a key ingredient in aspirin.

Aspirin is prescribed to reduce the risk of heart attacks.

It is also thought to help prevent bowel, breast and lung cancers, and perhaps Alzheimer's disease.

Vegetarians are already known to have less heart disease and bowel cancer than meat-eaters.

But this study, carried out by scientists at Dumfries and Galloway Royal Infirmary, in Dumfries, looked at whether salicylic acid was the key.


The researchers looked at blood samples from 37 vegetarians and 39 meat and fish-eaters, all in their early 40s, from a Buddhist monastery and the community who were not taking aspirin.

They also examined samples taken from 14 diabetic patients in their late 50s who were taking 75mg of aspirin every day.

They found levels of salicylic acid were up to 12 times higher in vegetarians than in non-vegetarians.

But the average level for vegetarians was still significantly lower than that of the diabetic patients.

However, the scientists did find an overlap between the two groups, with eight vegetarians having higher concentrations of salicylic acid than the lowest found in the aspirin-taking group.

Six of the diabetics had concentrations lower than the highest level amongst the vegetarians.

But the researchers point out in their study, published in the Journal of Clinical Pathology, that there were wide variations within the two groups, with much higher concentrations of the acid within the group taking aspirin.

Medical implications

The Dumfries scientists admit diet will not provide the same anti-inflammatory protecion as aspirin.

But they say even low levels of salicylic acid may help protect against heart disease and other conditions.

They write that if the anti-inflammatory properties of salicylic acid at the concentrations found in food can be confirmed: "It is possible that dietary salicylates will prove to be one of the reasons why diets rich in fruit and vegetables protect against colorectal cancer and cardiovascular disease."

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05 Jul 00 | Health
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