Objective: Circulating endothelial progenitor cells (EPCs) play a critical role in maintaining the integrity of vascular vessels. The number of EPCs inversely correlates with the number of atherosclerotic risk factors. Although nonpharmacological treatment represents the first approach to the primary prevention of atherosclerotic diseases, little is known about the effects of diet on EPCs. We investigated the effect of a dietary intervention with vegetables that are commonly eaten in Okinawa on the number of EPCs.
Methods and results: Forty-five healthy young women were employed and randomized to a dietary intervention group (n=24) or a control group (n=21). Subjects in the intervention group received typical Okinawan vegetables through home-parcel delivery for 2 weeks. After the dietary intervention, urinary potassium and magnesium excretion increased only in the intervention group and changes were greater than in the control group (p=0.007, 0.010, respectively). The consumption of total vegetables correlated with changes in both urinary potassium and magnesium excretion. Serum folic acid increased and plasma homocysteine decreased in both groups but the change was significant only in the intervention group. The EPCs number significantly increased in the intervention group but did not in the control group. An inverse correlation was observed between EPC number and plasma homocysteine level (r=-0.272, p=0.016). Changes in the EPC number inversely correlated with changes in both serum total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol level (r=-0.555, p=0.0002; r=-0.626, p<0.0001, respectively).
Conclusions: The consumption of vegetables increased the number of circulating EPCs; this change might be associated with a homocysteine-lowering effect.