Insufficient intake of six healthy foods is associated with increased cardiovascular disease and deaths worldwide
A study conducted by researchers at McMaster University and Hamilton Health Sciences at the Population Research Health Institute (PHRI) found that not eating enough of six key foods is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease in adults. The foods are as follows:
- Dry fruits
- full-fat dairy
Sufficient intake of these foods is critical to reducing the risk of CVD, including heart attacks and strokes, according to the researchers. The study also found that a healthy diet can be achieved in many wayssuch as including moderate amounts of whole grains or unprocessed meats.
Previous and similar research has focused on Western countries and diets that have combined unhealthy, ultra-processed foods with nutrient-dense foods. This survey is global in scope and focuses on foods that are commonly considered healthy.
The World Health Organization estimates that nearly 18 million people died from cardiovascular disease in 2019, accounting for 32% of all global deaths. Of those deaths, 85% were due to heart attacks and strokes. PHRI researchers and their global collaborators analyzed data from 245,000 people from 80 countries from multiple studies. The results were published in the European Heart Journal.
A study around the world
The researchers derived a diet score from the PHRI Prospective Urban and Rural Epidemiological (PURE) study, which is being conducted on a large scale worldwide, and then replicated it in five independent studies to measure health outcomes in different regions of the world. and in people with and without prior CVD.
“Previous dietary scores – including the EAT-Lancet Planetary Diet and the Mediterranean Diet – have looked at the relationship of diet with CVD and death primarily in Western countries. The PURE Healthy Diet Score includes good representation from high-, middle-, and low-income countries,” says Salim Yusuf, lead author and principal investigator for PURE.
In addition to being truly global, the PURE Healthy Diet Score focused exclusively on protective or natural foods. “We were unique in that approach. The other dietary scores matched foods considered unhealthy, such as processed and ultra-processed foods, with foods and nutrients considered to be health protective,” said first author Andrew Mente, PHRI scientist and associate professor in the Department of Research Methods, Evidence and McMaster Health Impact.
“Recently, more attention has been paid to increasing consumption of protective foods for disease prevention. In addition to increasing the amount of fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes, researchers have shown that moderation is key in eating natural foods,” he said.
“Moderate amounts of fish and full-fat dairy are associated with a lower risk of CVD and mortality. The same health results can be achieved with moderate consumption of grains and meats, as long as they are unrefined whole grains and unprocessed meats.
The PURE Healthy Diet Score recommends an average daily intake of: Two to three servings of fruit; vegetables for two to three servings; walnuts one serving; and dairy two servings. The score also includes three to four weekly servings of legumes and two to three weekly servings of fish. Possible substitutes include whole grains, with one serving daily, and red meat or unprocessed poultry, with one serving daily.
There was no specific funding for this analysis, although each study that contributed data was funded separately and conducted over a 25-year period.
Source: McMaster University