Angiogenesis—What the Heck Is That?

What Is Angiogenesis and How Is It Tied to SuperFoods?
Dr. Lindsey Mcilvena, MD

In her day job, treating patients living with chronic disease, nutrition and lifestyle are not after-thoughts, they’re central to helping her patients get well. She’s also our go-to expert on plant-based diets.

Maybe you’ve heard about the latest science behind neurogenesis—that we can literally grow new neurons (brain cells) and make our brains bigger and better. But have you heard about angiogenesis? This is arguably one of the most exciting areas of biologic research going on right now—at least for science geeks—but we think it’s pretty amazing, too.

So what is angiogenesis, why should you care, and how is it tied to SuperFoods?

Angiogenesis is the process of growing new blood vessels. What’s interesting about angiogenesis is that just the right amount is needed at any given time, and the body is always striving for a balance. Here are some examples.

When you fall off your bike and get road rash (also known as a skinned knee, shin, or face), you’re left with a nasty wound. This is where angiogenesis comes in: New blood vessels grow into your wound to allow for faster healing, prevention of infection, and to increase blood flow to the affected area. So angiogenesis is good right? Right! We want our body to turn on angiogenesis in this type of situation.

But it’s not always a good thing. Take a cancerous tumor for example. As tumors grow and spread, they secrete chemicals which make blood vessels grow into them; it is precisely this kind of angiogenesis that allows tumors to get out of control. So in this context, angiogenesis is bad. We want just the right amount, not too much, and not too little—just like goldilocks and her three bears.

So what does this have to do with SuperFoods, if anything? Well, the research is showing that certain foods promote just the right amount of angiogenesis, turning it on in good ways, and turning it off in situations like a tumor.

What are these foods and their magical components? Some of our faves, like the catechins in green tea, the genisten in soybeans, and the lycopene in tomatoes, watermelon, and papaya show these promising effects.  Angiogenesis has also been shown to occur favorably from the indole-3-carbinols in cruciferous veggies like broccoli and cabbage, the anthocyanins in blueberries, and the vitamin K2 found in green leafy vegetables.

Just another great reason to get to know these SuperFoods.

Sources: 1, 2

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