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Why foods with unsaturated fats protect against cardiovascular disease

A new study from St. Michael’s Hospital has found that foods high in unsaturated fats, such as olive oil, may protect against cardiovascular disease.

Levels of the plasma protein Apolipoprotein A-IV (ApoA-IV) increase after the digestion of foods, particularly foods high in unsaturated fats. In addition, elevated blood levels of ApoA-IV are associated with lower rates of cardiovascular disease.

Experts at the Keenan Research Centre for Biomedical Science (KRCBS) of St. Michael’s Hospital have demonstrated that ApoA-IV helps to inhibit platelets that promote multiple diseases.

The findings indicate that ApoA-IV is a blocker of platelet surface glycoproteins GPIIbIIIa, platelet receptors that are necessary for platelet aggregation, a process where platelets to clump together in the blood. This condition can cause vessel occlusion that blocks blood flow and leads to thrombosis, which is the most common cause of mortality and morbidity worldwide.

Dr. Heyu Ni is the Platform Director for Hematology, Cancer, and Immunological Diseases at the KRCBS and the study’s principal investigator.

“Platelet aggregation can save lives, because it can stop bleeding in damaged vessels,” said Dr. Ni. “But we usually don’t want platelets to block blood flow in the vessels. This is thrombosis, and if vessel occlusion occurs in the heart or brain, it can cause heart attack, stroke or death.”

The research team has shown that ApoA-IV can block fibrinogen binding, decreasing platelet aggregation in a vessel. The ApoA-IV protein can also change its shape to accommodate increased blood flow, and become more effective to protect vessels from complete blockage.

“This is the first study to link ApoA-IV with platelets and thrombosis,” said Dr. Ni. “With this work, we have also explained why higher levels of ApoA-IV can slow down plaque build-up in blood vessels, known as atherosclerosis, because this process is also related to platelet function.”

Dr. Ni explained that the new findings have many potential applications, particularly in the development of therapies targeted at cardiovascular disease and other diseases that arise from platelet activation and aggregation.

The study is published in the journal Nature Communications.

By Chrissy Sexton, Staff Writer

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