Food categories that could reduce cardiovascular risk.

Food categories that could reduce cardiovascular risk.

Researchers looked into how various meal groups affected cardiovascular health. They discovered a relationship between lower cardiovascular risk and diets high in fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, whole-fat dairy, and fish.

To determine how much each element contributes to risk reduction overall, more research is required. A significant risk factor for cardiovascular disease (CVD) is an unhealthy diet.

Higher intakes of processed meats, refined cereals, and sugar-sweetened beverages. These in particular, are known to raise the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Likewise, there is a correlation between lower CVD risk with diets like the Mediterranean, Healthy Eating Index (HEI), and the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet. All of these diets call for consuming more of:

  • Fruit
  • Vegetables
  • Legumes
  • Nuts
  • Fish

Recent research has revealed that several foods, such as whole-fat dairy. They were previously believed to raise the risk of CVD and may instead have beneficial or neutral benefits. Many of these fresh discoveries have not yet, however, been included in dietary recommendations.

Furthermore, it is unknown whether earlier findings hold true for other regions of the world because the majority of dietary studies have been carried out in North America, Europe, and East Asia.

Researchers have looked at nutrition and health data from 80 nations on five continents.

In all geographic areas, they discovered a relationship between diets high in fruit, vegetables, nuts, legumes, seafood, and whole-fat dairy with a reduced risk of CVD and mortality. The results were more compelling for lower-income nations.

‘PURE’ diet versus Mediterranean and DASH diets

First, the researchers looked at information from 166,762 people between the ages of 35 and 70 who lived in 21 low-, middle-, and high-income nations on five continents. The individuals were monitored for an average of 9.3 years.

Six food categories associated with decreased death rates were used by the researchers to establish a score for a healthy diet:

  • fruit
  • vegetables
  • legumes
  • nuts
  • fish
  • dairy

The diet score was given the name “PURE” diet score in honour of the research it was based on.

Overall, the researchers found that the average diet score was 2.95. Also, the nations with a higher per-capita gross national income had a higher prevalence of healthier diet ratings.

During the follow-up period, they also tallied a total of 8,201 significant CVD events and 10,076 fatalities.

In the end, people with diet scores of 5 or 6 had a considerably lower risk of developing cardiovascular problems than participants with diet scores of 0 or 1.

They had a total of:

  • a 30% decrease in the mortality rate
  • Reduced risk of stroke by 19%
  • 18% decreased CVD risk
  • Heart attack risk is reduced by 14%.

The PURE diet score was applied to data from five more studies, encompassing 96,955 participants in 70 different countries, and the researchers discovered comparable outcomes.

They also noted that compared to other popular diet scores, such as the HEI, Mediterranean, and DASH diet scores, the PURE diet score exhibited a marginally greater correlation with CVD or death.

However, compared to the Planetary diet score, the PURE diet score was noticeably more predictive of death and major CVD events.

In order to strike a balance between a nutritious diet and a sustainable food system, the Planetary diet was created. The emphasis on plant-based foods and weekly limits of 98 grammes of red meat, 203 grammes of chicken, and 196 grammes of fish make it the most restricted diet of those under study.

How to eat for a healthy heart?

The study’s authors suggest eating every day as follows based on the PURE diet score:

  • 5 portions of fruit and vegetables each day
  • 1/2 cup of legumes
  • an amount of nuts
  • 0.3 fish servings
  • 2 dairy servings
  • one-half dish of red meat
  • 0.3 portions of chicken

Additionally, they advised 2-3 weekly servings of fish and 3-4 weekly servings of beans.

How diet is good for your heart?

Dr. Debbie Fetter, an assistant professor at the University of California, Davis who teaches nutrition but was not involved in the study, discussed the potential cardiovascular health benefits of diets high in fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, seafood, and whole grains with us.

Foods derived from plants, such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, are nutrient-dense and contain phytochemicals, which are protective agents. According to Dr. Fetter, phytochemicals can minimize inflammation and oxidation, which helps protect against chronic diseases like CVD.

Dr. Mary Greene, a board-certified cardiologist at Manhattan Cardiology in New York City, who was also not engaged in the study, was another person we spoke with. She pointed out that reducing processed foods may also contribute to some of the diet’s advantages.

We are aware that consuming fewer processed foods foods tainted by human manufacturing, foods containing additives, chemicals, and preservatives to keep them shelf-stable can reduce inflammation in the body, which has a negative impact on the cardiovascular system in particular. Avoiding these foods will help to maintain cardiovascular health, according to Dr. Greene.

“The food groups identified by this study, when consumed in their most natural state, can help to preserve cardiovascular health,” she continued.

Separating apart whole foods from processed foods

We enquired about the study’s limitations from senior clinical dietitian Dana Hunnes, Ph.D., of the UCLA Medical Centre in Los Angeles who was not engaged in it. She pointed out that the study did not identify causal relationships; it just documented connections.

The best we can do with this type of study is to say that these six foods are associated with lower risk for cardiovascular disease, but it doesn’t really look at how powerful each of those six foods is in potentially ‘causing’ cardiovascular disease,” Dr. Hunnes said.

This, she said, is crucial because it’s possible that the majority of health advantages came from eating more fruits, veggies, nuts, and legumes, and that those who ate these items also ate fish and dairy, which may have minor benefits.

The results, Dr. Greene continued, are open to interpretation. Although a pint of rich ice cream is technically a full-fat dairy product, she pointed out that it is also a highly processed and fattening item, so it is best to stay away from it.

The low-fat, sugar-free flavoured creamer, which is a highly processed item that contains chemicals linked to diabetes, obesity, and heart disease, would be a better substitute for a splash of heavy cream in your daily coffee. Making the distinction when discussing these various dietary groups is crucial, she continued.

No need to switch to a vegan diet

The study, according to Dr. Fetter, supports the idea that choosing nutrient-rich foods including fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seafood, and dairy can lower CVD risk.

She continued, observing that the relatively restrictive Planetary Diet Score was less predictive of cardiovascular health and mortality than the PURE diet score.

This finding supports varying your dietary pattern and suggests that if you do consume animal-source foods, you can do so in moderation rather than completely restrict or avoid them,” she said.

“You don’t necessarily need to go completely plant-based to lower your risk of heart disease, but rather moderate amounts of fish and dairy were found to be linked to a reduced risk of CVD in this analysis,” she said in her analysis.


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