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Alcorn scientists develop way to reduce the risk of heart disease

Alcorn State University scientists published a research article about reducing the risk of heart disease without the use of prescription medicine in the International Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism May 2011 issue, according to Dr. Alton Johnson, interim director of research.

The three scientists who co-authored the research are Dr. Michael Ezekwe, a nutritionist and director for the Swine Development Center, and Edith Ezekwe, instructor and registered dietitian, Department of Human Sciences, both from Alcorn State University; and Dr. Samuel Besong, animal and human nutritionist and chair for the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences, Delaware State University.

The team evaluated the effects of adding to human diet small quantities of purslane leaves on blood fats of human adults with high blood cholesterol. The freeze-dried leaves were added to the meals at lunch and dinner (three grams each) during the four weeks trial period. It was observed that consumption of purslane, which can be grown in gardens from seeds, reduced blood total cholesterol and LDL-cholesterol (bad cholesterol), while HDL-cholesterol (good cholesterol) levels were increased significantly.

Other blood circulating fats were not affected. Results suggest that purslane leaves added in small quantities in our diets have the potential to alter blood fat manufacture and breakdown in subjects with high blood cholesterol and can lower the risk of heart disease.

In addition, nutrient quality analysis confirmed that purslane is a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, crude protein, antioxidant vitamins, and minerals. Purslane is one of two vegetable crops that have the highest content of omega-3 fatty acids yet examined. The other twine vegetable is called waterleaf and Alcorn State is studying both vegetables for their healthful benefits to humans. Though both of them are rarely cultivated as crops in the United States, purslane is widely consumed in Europe and Mediterranean countries.

"With obesity and coronary heart disease so prevalent among many Mississippians, non-traditional and/or diet related approaches of lowering blood fats and cholesterol may provide a way to prevent and lower cardiovascular diseases and stroke,” Dr. Ezekwe said.