TOSSING a salad in olive oil dressing may be one way to keep blood pressure under control, a new study suggests.

The combination of unsaturated fat and nitrate-rich lettuce and celery suppresses an enzyme in the body linked to high blood pressure, or hypertension, scientists have found.

Previous research has shown that a Mediterranean diet can help reduce blood pressure. Typically, a Mediterranean diet includes unsaturated fat from olive oil, avocados and nuts, along with vegetables high in nitrite and nitrates including spinach, celery, carrots and lettuce.

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The study, conducted on mice, showed that nitro-fatty acids formed when these foods come together can combat hypertension.

Dr Sanjay Thakrar, from the British Heart Foundation, which co-funded the research published in the journal Proceedings Of The National Academy Of Sciences, said: "This study goes some way to explain why a Mediterranean diet appears to be good for heart health. The results showed a way in which a particular compound could combat high blood pressure, a major risk factor for heart disease.

"However, more work is necessary as these experiments were conducted in mice and this compound could also be having its effect through other pathways."