There are plenty of ideas out there about what a heart healthy diet should look like. And even more about specific foods or classes of nutrients to avoid or to embrace to ensure heart health. But a new study suggests that focusing on what not to eat may be the wrong approach…
The much talked about, praised Mediterranean Diet: high in Fresh Foods,
Low in Carbs, Fats and Proteins. Ditto the DASH diet.
More and more ‘experts’ are signing on.
Some ‘experts’ say a low-Carb diet is the way to heart health. Others insist on a low-Fat diet. Still others say to limit intake of specific protein types (Red Meat). This persistent disagreement on what’s best for heart health got researchers at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, Mass., thinking about which of the current diet schemes was most effective.
What they did
Researchers examined the effects of three healthy diets emphasizing different macronutrients — carbohydrates, proteins, or unsaturated fats — on a biomarker that directly reflects heart injury.
Study Corresponding Author Dr. Stephen Juraschek and colleagues analyzed stored blood samples from 150 participants in the Optimal MacroNutrient Intake Trial to Prevent Heart Disease (OmniHeart) trial, a two-center, inpatient feeding study conducted in Boston and Baltimore between April 2003 and June 2005. The average age among the study participants was 53.6 years, while 55 percent were African American and 45 percent were women. All had elevated blood pressure, but were not yet taking medications to control hypertension or cholesterol. All has been fed each of three diets — emphasizing carbohydrates, protein, or unsaturated fat — for six weeks with feeding periods separated by a washout period.
What they found
All three healthy diets reduced heart injury and inflammation, and acted quickly within a 6-week period. However, changing the macronutrients of the diet did not provide extra benefits. This is important for two reasons: First, the effects of diet on heart injury are rapid and cardiac injury can be reduced soon after adopting a healthy diet. Second, it is not the type of diet that matters for cardiac injury (high or low fat, high or low carb, etc.), but rather the overall healthfulness of the diet.
“There are multiple debates about dietary carbs and fat, but the message from our data is clear: eating a balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables, lean meats, and high in fiber that is restricted in red meats, sugary beverages, and sweets, will not only improve cardiovascular risk factors, but also reduce direct injury to the heart,” said Juraschek. “Hopefully, these findings will resonate with adults as they shop in grocery stores and with health practitioners providing counsel in clinics throughout the country.”
Once again, a victory for common sense! I’ve often remarked that we’d long ago have evolved to avoid excessive carbs or fats or the ‘wrong kind’ of proteins if they were really bad for us. Those who indulged in destructive excesses would have been weeded out by natural selection, their family lines eliminated from the gene pool. And by this stage in humanity’s development, we should all be quasi superbeings thanks to a natural proclivity to eat right. Hah!
The study in question showed it’s not which of the supposedly bad macronutrients we consume that cause health problems, it’s not eating enough of the right stuff. And, rephrased, that’s exactly the overall observation in most recent editions of the US and Canadian official Food Guides that we should all be eating more fresh Fruits and Veggies and Whole Grains, and fewer Carbs, Fat and Proteins.
It just makes sense that modern diets that are heavy on Processed Foods (high in Carbs, Fats and Proteins) and low on Fresh Foods should be leading us down a path to self destruction. We all must make an effort to counteract the temptations of convenient Packaged and Fast Foods and re-balance our diets to contain more Fresh Food. As I’ve often said, it’s not others who are responsible for our poor diets: it’s ultimately us, ourselves!
~ Maggie J.