Healthy eating patterns lower heart disease risk: Study

If you want to keep your heart health, take a note. Researchers have found that greater adherence to a variety of healthy eating patterns was associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD).

The study, published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, focuses on healthy eating patterns rather than individual ingredients and nutrients to better account for diverse cultural and personal food traditions and preferences.

“Our study indicates that greater adherence to any of the four healthy eating patterns we looked at is associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and the health benefits persist across racial and ethnic groups,” said study first author Zhilei Shan from Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health in the US.

For this study, researchers focused on dietary scores for four healthy eating patterns: Healthy Eating Index-2015 (HEI-2015); Alternate Mediterranean Diet Score (AMED); Healthful Plant-Based Diet Index (HPDI); and Alternate Healthy Eating Index (AHEI).

Despite different scoring methods, each of these patterns emphasizes a higher intake of whole grains, vegetables, fruits, legumes, and nuts, and lower intakes of red and processed meats and sugar-sweetened beverages.

To assess the associations of each pattern with CVD risk, the researchers looked at data from 74,930 women enrolled in the Nurses’ Health Study, 90,864 women in the Nurses’ Health Study II, and 43,339 men in the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study.

Participants in each study were asked every two to four years about their dietary habits, including how often, on average, they consumed a standard portion size of various foods.

Using the dietary data, which was collected over several decades via validated dietary questionnaires, the researchers created four dietary scores for each participant.

Higher dietary scores represented greater adherence to healthy eating patterns.

After adjusting for numerous factors, including age, BMI, and smoking status, the analysis found that greater adherence to any of the healthy eating patterns was consistently associated with a lower risk of CVD.

The study found that participants who adhered most to healthy eating patterns had a 14 per cent to 21 per cent lower risk of CVD when compared with those who adhered least.

The findings also showed that these different healthy eating patterns were similarly effective at lowering CVD risk across racial and ethnic groups and other subgroups studied and that they were statistically significantly associated with a lower risk of both coronary heart disease and stroke.

“These data provide further evidence to support current dietary guidelines that following healthy eating patterns confer long-term health benefits on cardiovascular disease prevention,” the study authors wrote.