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If you have high triglycerides, you may be thinking about eating healthier meals as a way to lower triglycerides naturally and reduce your risk for cardiovascular disease. Over the long term, switching to a healthier diet is indeed the best way to lower triglycerides naturally. But what about the short term? Wouldn’t it be nice to know that by choosing a healthy meal you’re providing immediate benefits to your cardiovascular system as well?
An important 2012 study comparing the immediate effects of a junk-food meal to a Mediterranean diet-type meal found just that: junk-food meals immediately damage your arteries, while Mediterranean diet-type meals not only do no harm—they may even be beneficial, especially if your triglycerides are high to start with.
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What Is Endothelial Function?
Researchers from the Montreal Heart Institute at the University of Montreal compared effects of a junk-food meal and typical Mediterranean diet meal on the inner lining of the arteries (the endothelium). The endothelium is not passive; it plays an important role in maintaining the health of the arteries by sensing and responding to various signals. The endothelial lining releases substances which cause the arteries to contract and expand in a balanced, harmonious way.
When endothelial function is disrupted, the arteries become too constricted and can’t dilate properly. How well your blood vessels dilate is closely linked to your risk of developing heart disease and other cardiovascular diseases. Endothelial dysfunction also is linked to inflammation and free radical damage within the blood vessels.
According to the study’s head researcher, Dr. Anil Nigam, director of research at the Cardiovascular Prevention and Rehabilitation Center, endothelial dysfunction is a big reason cholesterol-laden plaque builds up, clogging arteries and causing atherosclerosis.
The Mediterranean-Type vs. Junk-Food Meals
The study tracked 28 men who ate a Mediterranean Diet meal first and then a junk-food meal a week later. The Mediterranean Diet meal included salmon, almonds and vegetables cooked in olive oil. It was rich in good fats such as omega-3’s and mono- and polyunsaturated fats. The junk-food meal included a sandwich made with sausage, egg and cheese, along with three hash browns. It contained no omega-3s and was heavy in saturated fats. Endothelial function was tested at baseline and then again after eating the two meals.
Right after eating the healthy Mediterranean diet meal rich in good fats, the subjects’ arteries dilated (or opened) normally and maintained good blood flow, indicating optimal endothelial function. By contrast, after eating the junk food meal high in harmful saturated and trans- fats, arteries failed to dilate normally and endothelial function was impaired.
Find out how to follow this plan in Mediterranean Diet Plan and Recipes.
Healthy Meals and Triglycerides
Those participants with highest triglycerides had the greatest response to healthy meals. And their arteries responded better to the Mediterranean diet meal compared to people with low triglyceride levels.
The fast-food meal had the opposite effect: after eating a junk-food meal, the arteries of the study participants dilated 24 percent less than they did when in the fasting state. Dr. Nigam summed up the study by saying a Mediterranean diet may be particularly beneficial for individuals with high triglyceride levels precisely because it could help keep arteries healthy.
Benefits of Lowering Trigylcerides
Lowering triglycerides naturally in the long term can improve your endothelial function immediately. In fact, the Mediterranean diet has now been determined to be superior to low-fat diets for reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease and other chronic diseases.
Eating Mediterranean diet-type meals is a sure way to lower triglycerides naturally in the long term, while eating a Mediterranean diet-type meal right now is a sure way to positively influence the health and function of your arteries. The diet may also help manage depression and osteoporosis. (Follow the links to read discussions on those conditions.)
You can read about other natural, lifestyle-based treatments for reducing triglycerides in our articles here.
 Cantin J, Lacroix S, et al. Does the Adherence to a Mediterranean Diet Influence Baseline and Postprandial Endothelial Function? Can J Cardiol. 2012; 28 (5): S245.
 Kastorini CM, Milionis HJ, et al. The effect of Mediterranean diet on metabolic syndrome and its components: a meta-analysis of 50 studies and 534,906 individuals. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2011 Mar 15;57(11):1299-313.
 Nordmann AJ, Suter-Zimmermann K, et al. Meta-analysis comparing Mediterranean to low-fat diets for modification of cardiovascular risk factors. Am J Med. 2011 Sep;124(9):841-51.e2.
This blog was originally posted in 2012 and updated.