Eating a lot of spinach may prevent diabetics from heart attacks because it is rich in folic acid, which plays a big role in protecting the heart muscles from the onslaught of high glucose levels, say researchers,
A team of experts from NSW and China conducted experimental trials on diabetic rats, which showed them that folic acid could help reduce the rate of cardiac cell death significantly.
Lexin Wang, a professor at Charles Sturt University who led the study, said that the 11-week course of supplements was also found to enhance the expression of cell-death-prevention genes, and to suppress cell-death-inducing genes in heart muscles
"These are extremely exciting discoveries because for a very long time we did not have much of success in steering the heart away from the insult of high levels of blood glucose, in particular in the early stages of the cardiovascular disease process," theage.com.au quoted Prof. Wang as saying.
"Now, with a short course of folic acid treatment, we see a clear cut reduction in the death rates of cardiac cells. More importantly, the biology of the surviving cardiac cells is also improved, making these cells and muscles more resistant to future injuries from diabetes," he added.
Prof. Wang pointed out that diabetics have the tendency to develop diabetic heart muscle disease or diabetic cardiomyopathy, which increases the risk of heart failure.
He said that the high blood glucose levels experienced by diabetics might cause up to a third of the cardiac cells to be destroyed or damaged.
"Therefore, the development of new preventative strategies for cardiac muscle injuries in diabetics is extremely important in terms of reducing the overall cardiac complications and improving the clinical outcomes for patients," he said.
Prof. Wang also stressed the need for a large trial to test the clinical effectiveness of folic acid in diabetes, which he said could make for improved patient care.
"We may just end up with a big winner," he said.
The study, in collaboration with Guangzhou Red Cross Hospital, has been published in the international journal Cardiovascular Drugs and Therapy.