Healthcare: On the Agenda - Red onions could reduce heart risks

In a nutshell

A study has found that red onions can help prevent heart disease. Scientists at the Chinese University of Hong Kong discovered the vegetable helps remove bad cholesterol from the body, which can cause heart attacks and strokes.

Why is it important?

One in six deaths in the UK are attributed to heart attacks, with about 700,000 people in the UK having a heart condition. In 2002, The World Health Organization estimated that 12.6 per cent of worldwide deaths were from heart disease.

How do we know onions prevent heart disease?

Onions have long been known to have health benefits including preventing cancer, heart disease and common coughs and colds. Some parts of the world where onion consumption is high have much lower cancer rates. Scientists in Hong Kong fed crushed-up red onions to hamsters, who had been put on a high cholesterol diet. They found that after eight weeks levels of bad cholesterol had dropped by an average of 20 per cent. But over the same time period, there was no reduction in the hamsters' good cholesterol levels, which can help guard against heart disease.

PR strategy

The university distributed press releases to news agencies including Reuters. A release was sent out explaining the results of the two-month research campaign.

Media coverage

The story was covered in more than 30 different publications and news websites, including the Daily Mail and The Times of India, and on MedBlog.

- 90k people in the UK die of heart disease each year

- 8% of UK population suffers with heart conditions.

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