Smoking and food additives linked to hardening in the arteries, a risk factor for heart disease and death
10/27/2019 // Darnel Fernandez // Views

Having healthy arteries is vital to prevent chronic diseases like coronary artery disease. The hardening of arteries, or arterial stiffness, is a risk factor for heart disease and even death. However, the causes of arterial stiffening are not well understood. Fortunately, a recent study published in the American Journal of Hypertension identified key lifestyle factors that could contribute to hardened arteries.

A surprising find

In one of the largest studies of its kind, researchers from the University of Georgia conducted an untargeted metabolomics profiling of more than 1,200 participants from the Bogalusa Heart Study. The team looked to evaluate and identify the metabolites that are associated with hardened arteries.

The European Bioinformatics Institute defines metabolomics as the large-scale study of molecules known as metabolites, which are produced during metabolism. These metabolites are important for maintaining normal body function, and changes in these metabolites can show how environmental factors like smoking influence health. According to lead author Changwei Li, metabolomics can help measure the number of exposures entering the body. (Related: An omega-3 metabolite plays a role in preserving bone tissue.)

“In this study, we identified many metabolites related to coffee drinking, alcohol drinking, Southern foods, dietary supplements, and even pesticides,” said Li.

The research team analyzed the blood samples and arterial stiffness measures of all 1,261 participants during a three-year visit cycle. They aimed to identify the environmental exposures that affected the arterial stiffness measured.


From their results, the research team managed to pinpoint 27 novel metabolites associated with arterial stiffness. According to the researchers, their findings provide important clues that could outline the mechanisms of arterial stiffness.

“We were able to identify some environmental and lifestyle related-metabolites, build metabolite networks to shown how the body reacts to the environmental exposures, and more importantly, tested the effect of those metabolites on arterial stiffness,” said Li.

The researchers also noted that some of these metabolites were associated with other risk factors like hypertension or diabetes. What's surprising with the findings, however, is that some of these metabolites are food additives and cooking ingredients commonly used in U.S. kitchens. For example, the researchers identified fructose – which is used as an artificial sweetener in many food types – as one of the new metabolites. They also considered y-glutamylvaline and y-glutamylisoleucine – peptides used in chicken broth – as metabolites linked to hardened arteries.

Given the wide usage of these additives, the researchers called for further studies to investigate their roles in arterial stiffness.

The key to the heart is a healthy body

The study emphasized the importance of keeping your heart and arteries healthy to reduce the risk of chronic heart diseases and death. Change your lifestyle for the better using these tips to keep yourself safe from cardiovascular problems:

  1. Get some exercise. Studies have shown that having a sedentary lifestyle can lead to a variety of health risks, including increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease mortality.  One of the easiest ways to prevent this is by exercising. An active body has good blood circulation that helps improve high cholesterol and hypertension.
  2. Eat a heart-healthy diet. Diet can play a huge role in improving general health. Adding more good fats to your diet, such as Omega-3 fatty acids, reduces bad cholesterol from the body.
  3. Quit smoking. Smoking is said to be the leading cause of heart attacks and heart disease. Simply quitting smoking altogether can eliminate the risk entirely. Blood will also become much thinner when you quit smoking, making it easier for the heart to circulate blood throughout the body.

Making healthy lifestyle changes are essential in trying to maintain good body and heart health. has more stories about cardiovascular disease and how to prevent them.

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