I am
Q&A with Lauren Blekkenhorst
heartfoundation.org.au|Helpline 13 11 12

Q&A with Lauren Blekkenhorst

Research to develop better evidence for the vascular and metabolic health benefits of vegetables and their bioactive constituents.

Dr Lauren Blekkenhorst is a Heart Foundation Postdoctoral Research Fellow within the School of Medical and Health Sciences at Edith Cowan University. Her research aims to develop better evidence for the vascular and metabolic health benefits of vegetables and their bioactive constituents as well as finding ways to increase vegetable consumption at a population level to improve healthy ageing. She has expertise in the design and conduct of randomised controlled trials and observational studies that focus on the vascular and metabolic health benefits of vegetables and their bioactive components.

What are you currently researching?

My research project will explore the health benefits of specific types of vegetables and their protective bioactive components, as well as finding new and improved ways to encourage people to eat more vegetables every day to improve their heart health.

What difference will your research make to people’s cardiovascular health in Australia? 

Most Australians have had their lives impacted by cardiovascular disease, from losing a loved one to caring for their loved ones after a heart attack or stroke. The vast majority of these devastating events can be prevented by modifying diet and lifestyle earlier in life. In particular, increasing the intake of vegetables is fundamental for cardiovascular disease prevention. Despite this knowledge, over 90% of Australian adults are still not meeting the recommended 5 servings of vegetables every day, with most eating well below these recommendations. In addition, intake of the types of vegetables that may provide larger benefits for cardiovascular health are even lower. If my research can demonstrate that specific types of vegetables are superior when it comes to improving cardiovascular health, then a small achievable change of eating more of these vegetables every day, will cause a greater reduction in cardiovascular disease burden for the same level of change in other vegetables being eaten. Better understanding of the bioactive components of these vegetables will also inform why we should be increasing consumption of these vegetables in our diets.

What were some of the key findings of your PhD?

During my PhD, I discovered a strong link between eating specific vegetables, such as cruciferous (e.g. broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale), allium (e.g. garlic, onion, leek) and leafy greens (e.g. spinach, lettuce, rocket), and their bioactives (e.g. nitrate), and cardiovascular health outcomes. My team and I were the first to publish on the potential long-term cardioprotective role of dietary nitrate, which is found predominantly in leafy green vegetables. I will now be able to delve deeper by researching the direct benefits of these vegetables and explore other novel bioactive compounds that are potentially responsible for health benefits.

How important was funding from the Heart Foundation for your work?

We all know that eating a wide variety of vegetables can reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease. Being awarded with funding from the National Heart Foundation of Australia will allow me to delve deeper and investigate which specific vegetables provide the greatest reduction in risk. The funding will also enable me to explore particular novel components found in these vegetables. Vegetables contain hundreds of plant compounds and we are only just at the tip of the iceberg in understanding their effects. It is vital that we base our dietary recommendations on scientific evidence to help Australians achieve optimal health throughout life. With the help of the National Heart Foundation of Australia and a large interdisciplinary team of researchers and clinicians, I am now able to establish high quality evidence on which vegetables are the best for cardiovascular health, and why.

Do you have a message for Heart Foundation supporters? 

I hope that my research will enlighten and motivate Australians to increase their vegetable consumption and to make healthier diet and lifestyle choices. This may in turn help prevent the substantial burden cardiovascular disease has on loved ones, and the wider community. 

You can find a range of heart healthy recipes website to incorporate more vegetables into your everyday meals benefiting your heart health. 

You might also be interested in

The Heart Foundation Alumni Program

The Heart Foundation Alumni Program

The Heart Foundation Alumni Program

Stay connected with your research alumni community. ...

Research Directory

Research Directory

GLOBAL CARDIOVASCULAR RESEARCH FUNDERS FORUM

GLOBAL CARDIOVASCULAR RESEARCH FUNDERS FORUM

GLOBAL CARDIOVASCULAR RESEARCH FUNDERS FORUM

FACILITATING INTERNATIONAL CLINICAL TRIALS ...

2020 Strategic Grant Recipients

2020 Strategic Grant Recipients

Heart Foundation Research Award Recipients

Heart Foundation Research Award Recipients

Explore our research award recipients and projects...

Research funding programs

Research funding programs

Research funding programs

Understand the application process and requirements of our various funding programs....

2022 Collaboration and Exchange Award

2022 Collaboration and Exchange Award

Our research stories

Our research stories

Our research stories

We fund amazing researchers who have important stories to tell...

Managing your funding

Managing your funding

Managing your funding

Resources to help manage your grant, scholarship or fellowship....

2022 Future Leader Fellowship

2022 Future Leader Fellowship

Future Leader Fellows are emerging leaders – the best and brightest in cardiovascular research....

Christmas Appeal

Christmas Appeal

Christmas Appeal

Make a donation to our Christmas Appeal on behalf of a family member or a loved one and receive a personalised eCard to let them know....

Heart Health Check Toolkit

Heart Health Check Toolkit

Looking for that perfect gift?

Looking for that perfect gift?

Looking for that perfect gift?

Make a donation to our Christmas Appeal on behalf of a family member or a loved one and receive a personalised eCard to let them know....

Absolute CVD risk clinical guidelines

Absolute CVD risk clinical guidelines

The Absolute Cardiovascular Disease Risk (CVD) Guidelines helps healthcare professionals identify, prevent and manage a person's risk of developing CVD. ...

Easy chicken nasi goreng

Easy chicken nasi goreng

Easy chicken nasi goreng

10 minutes
Serves 4

Protein and heart health

Protein and heart health

Protein and heart health

What are the best sources of protein when it come to your heart health...

Fundraise to save Australian hearts

Fundraise to save Australian hearts

Fundraise to save Australian hearts

Join our community of fundraisers who are committed to taking action to fight heart disease....

24-hour Blood Pressure Monitoring

24-hour Blood Pressure Monitoring

Blood pressure monitoring at home using a 24-hour blood pressure monitor test....

Women and heart disease

Women and heart disease

Women and heart disease

Information on women and heart disease for consumers....

Nutrition Resources for Practice and Patient Care

Nutrition Resources for Practice and Patient Care

Nutrition Resources for Practice and Patient Care

Blood cholesterol

Blood cholesterol

Blood cholesterol

Keeping your blood cholesterol at a healthy level can help you reduce your risk of heart disease and other serious conditions. ...

For professionals: Heart Health Checks

For professionals: Heart Health Checks

Heart Health Checks have been supported by Medicare since April 2019....

Help others in need through a gift in your Will

Help others in need through a gift in your Will

Help others in need through a gift in your Will

Ian “did not hesitate” to leave 100% of his estate to the Heart Foundation....

$1.2 million budget plea to help Victorians pick up the pace

$1.2 million budget plea to help Victorians pick up the pace

$1.2 million budget plea to help Victorians pick up the pace

Media release: 20 October 2021...

Action Plans

Action Plans

Action Plans

Recovery is a long journey, so having a plan makes a huge difference. Using an action plan gives you a step-by-step guide to improving your lifestyle....

Asian recipes

Asian recipes

Asian recipes

Find heart healthy Asian recipes....

Order patient resources online

Order patient resources online

Search and order from our range of printed patient resources online. ...

GLOBAL CARDIOVASCULAR RESEARCH FUNDERS FORUM

GLOBAL CARDIOVASCULAR RESEARCH FUNDERS FORUM

GLOBAL CARDIOVASCULAR RESEARCH FUNDERS FORUM

FACILITATING INTERNATIONAL CLINICAL TRIALS ...

Why are you playing this game? It’s putting your heart at risk.

Why are you playing this game? It’s putting your heart at risk.

Why are you playing this game? It’s putting your heart at risk.

The game is “hide and seek”. You play it without even realising. The shock is that when you play this game, you could be placing your heart health at risk....

Become a corporate partner

Become a corporate partner

Become a corporate partner

Partner with us to help us fight for Australian hearts....

2022 Postdoctoral Fellowship

2022 Postdoctoral Fellowship

The Postdoctoral Fellowship aims to identify the best and brightest (recent) PhD graduates, give them a boost to their research career and enhance their ability to attract and secure future funding....

Our programs and initiatives

Our programs and initiatives

Our programs and initiatives

The Heart Foundation delivers innovative, evidence-based programs and initiatives to support and prevent heart disease in Australia...

For Professionals: Coronary artery calcium scoring

For Professionals: Coronary artery calcium scoring

The National Heart Foundation of Australia Position Statement: Coronary artery calcium scoring for the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease in Australia.¹...

Heart failure resources for patients

Heart failure resources for patients

Educate your patients on everything they need to know about heart failure and managing their condition ...

Heart Week

Heart Week

Heart Week

May 3 – 9, 2021...

What is angina?

What is angina?

What is angina?

Angina is a type of chest pain or discomfort that’s a symptom of an underlying heart problem, usually coronary heart disease (CHD)....

What is a heart attack?

What is a heart attack?

What is a heart attack?

The most common cause of a heart attack is coronary heart disease....

How to make healthier meals at home

How to make healthier meals at home

How to make healthier meals at home

Cooking at home is often healthier than eating out....

Benefits of physical activity for your heart

Benefits of physical activity for your heart

Benefits of physical activity for your heart

Physical activity and exercise can do wonders for your physical and mental health....

Absolute CVD risk charts

Absolute CVD risk charts

Absolute CVD risk charts provide a visual tool to calculate CVD risk for use in practice in Australia....