These six healthy foods combine to lower cardiovascular risk and global deaths
[July 8, 2023: Staff Writer, The Brighter Side of News]
In a ground-breaking discovery that defies conventional medical understanding, three elderly men with heart failure caused by a build-up of sticky, toxic proteins have experienced a reversal of their condition. (CREDIT: Creative Commons)
A recent study led by researchers from McMaster University and Hamilton Health Sciences at the Population Research Health Institute (PHRI) has highlighted a crucial health revelation: the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD), including heart attacks and strokes, could be significantly mitigated by incorporating six key foods into our regular diets.
These findings were based on a comprehensive analysis involving 245,000 people across 80 countries and published in the European Heart Journal.
The research suggests that consuming a regular mix of fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, fish, and whole-fat dairy products is instrumental in lowering the risk of cardiovascular conditions. This dietary intervention can be adapted to different culinary traditions, offering flexibility by including moderate quantities of whole grains or unprocessed meats as alternatives.
This breakthrough was revealed following a global-scale investigation that diverged from previous studies by focusing exclusively on foods universally considered healthy rather than analyzing the impact of potentially harmful, ultra-processed foods.
This transformative research gains added gravity in light of World Health Organization data estimating that nearly 18 million people succumbed to CVD in 2019, accounting for a staggering 32% of all global deaths. Heart attacks and strokes were the leading culprits, responsible for 85% of these CVD-related deaths.
For this study, PHRI researchers, in collaboration with global experts, employed a diet score derived from the Prospective Urban and Rural Epidemiological (PURE) study, a large-scale global project under PHRI's direction. This dietary scoring method was then replicated in five independent studies, enabling the evaluation of health outcomes across different global regions, and amongst individuals with and without prior CVD experiences.
“Previous diet scores – including the EAT-Lancet Planetary Diet and the Mediterranean Diet – examined the relationship of diet to CVD and mortality primarily in Western countries. In contrast, the PURE Healthy Diet Score provided a broader perspective by encompassing high, middle, and low-income nations,” explained Salim Yusuf, the study's senior author and the principal investigator of PURE.
Andrew Mente, PHRI scientist and assistant professor at McMaster’s Department of Health Research Methods, Evidence, and Impact. (CREDIT: McMaster University)
Furthermore, the PURE Healthy Diet Score stood out for its unique emphasis on protective, or natural, foods, eschewing the more common approach of incorporating foods considered harmful, such as processed and ultra-processed foods, into the evaluation matrix.
“We were unique in that focus. Other diet scores mingled foods perceived as harmful with those believed to be protective of one’s health,” said first author Andrew Mente, a PHRI scientist and assistant professor at McMaster’s Department of Health Research Methods, Evidence, and Impact.
Median intake of the food categories of the Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology healthy diet score, overall and by geographic region (n = 147 642). (CREDIT: European Heart Journal)
He further highlighted the importance of consuming protective foods in higher quantities to prevent diseases. While emphasizing the need to eat more fruits, vegetables, nuts, and legumes, Mente also underscored that moderation is essential when consuming natural foods.
He explained, “Moderate amounts of fish and whole-fat dairy are associated with a lower risk of CVD and mortality. The same health outcomes can be achieved with moderate consumption of grains and meats – as long as they are unrefined whole grains and unprocessed meats.”
Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology healthy diet score by country gross national income (n = 147 642). (CREDIT: European Heart Journal)
The PURE Healthy Diet Score recommends an average daily intake of two to three servings each of fruits and vegetables, one serving of nuts, and two servings of dairy. It also advises consuming three to four weekly servings of legumes and two to three weekly servings of fish. As potential substitutes, the score includes one daily serving of whole grains and one daily serving of unprocessed red meat or poultry.
The substantial analysis undertaken for this study was not financed by any specific funding source. Instead, each study that contributed data had separate funding and was conducted independently over an extended 25-year period. The researchers' dedication and collaboration have yielded invaluable insights into dietary practices and their potential impact on reducing global CVD incidence.
Their findings carry profound implications for global health policies, dietary guidelines, and individual health choices. Their work exemplifies the power of cooperative, global scientific exploration to provide essential knowledge that can enhance human health and longevity.
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