The Mediterranean diet is constantly lauded in the nutrition world—in fact, U.S. News has named it the “best diet overall” for five years straight—but as a registered dietitian, I think it’s time to think about it a little differently: It’s time to dethrone the Mediterranean diet as being the very best way to eat.
Now, the Mediterranean diet—which emphasizes whole grains and plant foods such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, tree nuts, seeds, and olives, and limits red meat, sugar, and saturated fat—is not the only culturally based way of eating that’s been celebrated. The Japanese diet, rich in foods such as seafood, steamed rice, tofu, natto, seaweed, and pickled fruits and vegetables, has been promoted for its longevity-promoting aspects as well. But as scrolling through social media or even many news and health websites will show, it still doesn’t come close to the Mediterranean diet in terms of widespread recognition.
As an RD, I’ve noticed an overwhelming belief in our society that eating Mediterranean-style is just the way to go. So if your cultural foods don’t hail from one of the countries that make up that area, how does this make you feel?
Spoiler: Probably not so good—and that’s why I believe we need to rethink how we talk about cultural foods and ways of eating.
You know I’m a Mediterranean diet advocate. There are other healthy ways of eating. I’m an advocate of free speech and open debate. No censorship here! Read Shana’s article and see what you think. I’m not sure what the “Japanese diet” is. I’ve written good things about the Okinawan diet as discussed in Dan Buettner’s Blue Zones books. Click for my review of Blue Zones.
Posted onApril 30, 2022|Comments Off on CT Versus Invasive Angiography in Stable Chest Pain
We’re all gonna die of something, right?
The #1 cause of death in the U.S. is coronary artery disease (CAD), which causes heart attacks and sudden cardiac death. Blockage in the heart arteries typically develops over years and many people are walking around not knowing it’s there. The lucky ones develop warning signs like chest pain or shortness of breath on exertion. After consulting a physician, the next step may be a “stress test” or some sort imaging of the arteries of the heart.
Angiography refers to imaging of arteries or veins. Angiography of the heart arteries is helpful in diagnosing blockage of arteries that may cause heart attacks or sudden cardiac death in the future.
CT stands for computerized tomography: x-rays obtain images that are then manipulated by computer technology to provide more information than plain x-ray technology alone. CT angiography of the heart arteries is done with iodinated contrast injected into the low-pressure venous system of circulation. In contrast, standard arterial angiography involves introduction of a needle (and catheter) into the high-pressure arterial system, usually the femoral artery in the groin or the smaller radial artery in the wrist. Standard arterial angiography is associated with a higher risk of complications such as leakage of blood from the artery. Another potential complication is embolization of arterial plaque or clots downstream from the arterial puncture. Because of the higher complication rate in the arterial system, standard angiography is considered “invasive.”
Among patients referred for invasive coronary angiography (ICA) because of stable chest pain and intermediate pretest probability of coronary artery disease, the risk of major adverse cardiovascular events was similar in the CT group and the ICA group. The frequency of major procedure-related complications was lower with an initial CT strategy.
I bet the non-invasive CT is also less expensive that standard arterial angiography.
Posted onFebruary 26, 2022|Comments Off on Ultra-Processed Foods ——> Higher Coronary Artery Disease Risk
What are ultra-processed foods? I’m not paying $35 for the scientific article to find out. If you can grab the definition from your copy, please share in the Comments section. The 2020 profit from my publishing company was only $937.08, so I’m watching my expenses.
Here’s the free abstract:
Higher ultra-processed food intake has been linked with several cardiometabolic and cardiovascular diseases. However, prospective evidence from US populations remains scarce.
To test the hypothesis that higher intake of ultra-processed foods is associated with higher risk of coronary artery disease.
A total of 13,548 adults aged 45–65 y from the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities study were included in the analytic sample. Dietary intake data were collected through a 66-item FFQ. Ultra-processed foods were defined using the NOVA classification, and the level of intake (servings/d) was calculated for each participant and divided into quartiles. We used Cox proportional hazards models and restricted cubic splines to assess the association between quartiles of ultra-processed food intake and incident coronary artery disease.
There were 2006 incident coronary artery disease cases documented over a median follow-up of 27 y. Incidence rates were higher in the highest quartile of ultra-processed food intake (70.8 per 10,000 person-y; 95% CI: 65.1, 77.1) compared with the lowest quartile (59.3 per 10,000 person-y; 95% CI: 54.1, 65.0). Participants in the highest compared with lowest quartile of ultra-processed food intake had a 19% higher risk of coronary artery disease (HR: 1.19; 95% CI: 1.05, 1.35) after adjusting for sociodemographic factors and health behaviors. An approximately linear relation was observed between ultra-processed food intake and risk of coronary artery disease.Conclusions
Higher ultra-processed food intake was associated with a higher risk of coronary artery disease among middle-aged US adults. Further prospective studies are needed to confirm these findings and to investigate the mechanisms by which ultra-processed foods may affect health.
I admit I must eat some ultra-processed foods, but try to limit them.
Heart disease is the #1 killer in the developed world, even more lethal the COVID19! If you’ve abandoned your New Years’ weight-loss diet, consider one low in ultra-processed foods, like the Mediterranean diet.
Examining a variety of diet quality methodologies will inform best practice use of diet quality indices for assessing all-cause and CVD [cardiovascular disease] mortality.
To examine the association between three diet quality indices (Australian Dietary Guideline Index, DGI; Dietary Inflammatory Index, DII; Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay, MIND) and risk of all-cause mortality, CVD mortality and non-fatal CVD events up to 19 years later.Design
Data on 10,009 adults (51.8 years; 52% female) from the Australian Diabetes, Obesity and Lifestyle study were used. A food frequency questionnaire was used to calculate DGI, DII and MIND at baseline. Cox proportional hazard models were used to estimate hazard ratios (HR) and 95% CI of all-cause mortality, CVD mortality and non-fatal CVD events (stroke; myocardial infarction) according to 1 SD increase in diet quality, adjusted for age, sex, education, smoking, physical activity, energy intake, history of stroke or heart attack, and diabetes and hypertension status.Results
Deaths due to all-cause (n = 1,955) and CVD (n = 520), and non-fatal CVD events (n = 264) were identified during mean follow-ups of 17.7, 17.4 and 9.6 years, respectively. For all-cause mortality, HRs associated with higher DGI, DII and MIND were 0.94 (95% CI: 0.89, 0.99), 1.08 (95% CI: 1.02, 1.15) and 0.93 (95% CI: 0.89, 0.98), respectively. For CVD mortality, HRs associated with higher DGI, DII and MIND were 0.93 (95% CI: 0.85, 0.99), 1.10 (95% CI: 1.00, 1.24) and 0.90 (95% CI: 0.82, 0.98), respectively. There was limited evidence of associations between diet quality and non-fatal CVD events.Conclusions
Better quality diet predicted lower risk of all-cause and CVD mortality in Australian adults, while a more inflammatory diet predicted higher mortality risk. These findings highlight the applicability of following Australian dietary guidelines, a Mediterranean style diet and a low-inflammatory diet for the reduction of all-cause and CVD mortality risk.
Mainstream physicians are still hesitant to recommend low-carb diets because they are usually high in fat, potentially with heart-toxic levels of saturated fats. A recent scientific article supported low-carb eating for heart health.
Carbohydrate restriction shows promise for diabetes, but concerns regarding high saturated fat content of low-carbohydrate diets limit widespread adoption.Objectives
This preplanned ancillary study aimed to determine how diets varying widely in carbohydrate and saturated fat affect cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factors during weight-loss maintenance.
After 10–14% weight loss on a run-in diet, 164 participants (70% female; BMI = 32.4 ± 4.8 kg/m2) were randomly assigned to 3 weight-loss maintenance diets for 20 wk. The prepared diets contained 20% protein and differed 3-fold in carbohydrate (Carb) and saturated fat as a proportion of energy (Low-Carb: 20% carbohydrate, 21% saturated fat; Moderate-Carb: 40%, 14%; High-Carb: 60%, 7%). Fasting plasma samples were collected prerandomization and at 20 wk. Lipoprotein insulin resistance (LPIR) score was calculated from triglyceride-rich, high-density, and low-density lipoprotein particle (TRL-P, HDL-P, LDL-P) sizes and subfraction concentrations (large/very large TRL-P, large HDL-P, small LDL-P). Other outcomes included lipoprotein(a), triglycerides, HDL cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, adiponectin, and inflammatory markers. Repeated measures ANOVA was used for intention-to-treat analysis.
Retention was 90%. Mean change in LPIR (scale 0–100) differed by diet in a dose-dependent fashion: Low-Carb (–5.3; 95% CI: –9.2, –1.5), Moderate-Carb (–0.02; 95% CI: –4.1, 4.1), High-Carb (3.6; 95% CI: –0.6, 7.7), P = 0.009. Low-Carb also favorably affected lipoprotein(a) [–14.7% (95% CI: –19.5, –9.5), –2.1 (95% CI: –8.2, 4.3), and 0.2 (95% CI: –6.0, 6.8), respectively; P = 0.0005], triglycerides, HDL cholesterol, large/very large TRL-P, large HDL-P, and adiponectin. LDL cholesterol, LDL-P, and inflammatory markers did not differ by diet.
A low-carbohydrate diet, high in saturated fat, improved insulin-resistant dyslipoproteinemia and lipoprotein(a), without adverse effect on LDL cholesterol. Carbohydrate restriction might lower CVD risk independently of body weight, a possibility that warrants study in major multicentered trials powered on hard outcomes.
Parker here. These findings are no surprise to me.
Steve Parker, M.D.
PS: The Advanced Mediterranean Diet (2nd Ed.) includes a low-carb option.
“If you’re looking to improve your heart health, you may want to try eating a low-carb, high-fat Mediterranean diet. Why? Because a new study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that eating a low-carb (no more than 20% of daily calories from carbs), the high fat-style Mediterranean diet may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD). For the study, obese study participants reported both improved insulin resistance and cholesterol levels compared to those who ate a moderate carb (40%) or high carb (60%) diet over a five-month period.”
Steve Parker, M.D.
PS: The Ketogenic Mediterranean Diet is obviously low-carb, and is included in both The Advanced Mediterranean Diet (2nd Ed.) and Conquer Diabetes and Prediabetes.
Posted onDecember 10, 2021|Comments Off on Mediterranean Diet Prevents Progression of Coronary Artery Disease
Most patients with a heart attack have underlying atherosclerosis (“hardening of the arteries”) in the heart, called coronary artery disease. Around the time of a heart attack (if not before), doctors and patients should focus on mitigating risk factors for future heart attacks and other cardiac events. This is called “secondary prevention.” Risk factor modification might include smoking cessation, regular exercise, stress reduction, and diet modification. For years, I’ve been recommending the Mediterranean diet. Many others recommend a low-fat diet instead. A recent study supports my diet recommendation.
One way to assess risk of progressive atherosclerosis is to measure the thickness of the the carotid artery wall by ultrasound. Increasing thickness of the artery wall is linked to higher risk of atherosclerotic complications like heart attack and stroke. To drill down deeper, it’s the thickness of the innermost two layers of the artery wall, called the intima-media, that matters. The study at hand showed a reduction in carotid artery intima-media thickness over five years on a Mediterranean diet compared to a low-fat diet. Here’s the abstract:
Background and Purpose:
Lifestyle and diet affect cardiovascular risk, although there is currently no consensus about the best dietary model for the secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease. The CORDIOPREV study (Coronary Diet Intervention With Olive Oil and Cardiovascular Prevention) is an ongoing prospective, randomized, single-blind, controlled trial in 1002 coronary heart disease patients, whose primary objective is to compare the effect of 2 healthy dietary patterns (low-fat rich in complex carbohydrates versus Mediterranean diet rich in extra virgin olive oil) on the incidence of cardiovascular events. Here, we report the results of one secondary outcome of the CORDIOPREV study. Thus, to evaluate the efficacy of these diets in reducing cardiovascular disease risk. Intima-media thickness of both common carotid arteries (IMT-CC) was ultrasonically assessed bilaterally. IMT-CC is a validated surrogate for the status and future cardiovascular disease risk.
From the total participants, 939 completed IMT-CC evaluation at baseline and were randomized to follow a Mediterranean diet (35% fat, 22% monounsaturated fatty acids, <50% carbohydrates) or a low-fat diet (28% fat, 12% monounsaturated fatty acids, >55% carbohydrates) with IMT-CC measurements at 5 and 7 years. We also analyzed the carotid plaque number and height.
The Mediterranean diet decreased IMT-CC at 5 years (−0.027±0.008 mm; P<0.001), maintained at 7 years (−0.031±0.008 mm; P<0.001), compared to baseline. The low-fat diet did not modify IMT-CC. IMT-CC and carotid plaquemax height were higher decreased after the Mediterranean diet, compared to the low-fat diet, throughout follow-up. Baseline IMT-CC had the strongest association with the changes in IMT-CC after the dietary intervention.
Long-term consumption of a Mediterranean diet rich in extravirgin olive oil, if compared to a low-fat diet, was associated with decreased atherosclerosis progression, as shown by reduced IMT-CC and carotid plaque height. These findings reinforce the clinical benefits of the Mediterranean diet in the context of secondary cardiovascular prevention.
Parker here again. Undoubtedly, it would be more helpful if the investigators reported the actual rates of heart attack, stroke, and death in the two diet groups over five years. I suspect that will be in a future report.
An article in Clinical Cardiology states the serious nature of coronary artery disease (CAD) in those with diabetes (DM): “CAD is the main cause of death in both type 1 and type 2 DM, and DM is associated with a 2 to 4-fold increased mortality risk from heart disease. Over 70% of people >65 years of age with DM will die from some form of heart disease or stroke. Furthermore, in patients with DM there is an increased mortality after MI [myocardial infarction], and worse overall long-term prognosis with CAD.”
For patients with established cardiovascular disease, a recent study found that aspirin 81 mg/day was just as effective as 325 mg/day in preventing combined risk of death and hospitalization for heart attack or stroke. Rates of major bleeding were the same regardless of dose.
Posted onAugust 31, 2021|Comments Off on High Glycemic Index Eating Associated With Premature Death and Cardiovascular Disease
Haven’t we know this for years? From New England Journal of Medicine:
Most data regarding the association between the glycemic index and cardiovascular disease come from high-income Western populations, with little information from non-Western countries with low or middle incomes. To fill this gap, data are needed from a large, geographically diverse population.
This analysis includes 137,851 participants between the ages of 35 and 70 years living on five continents, with a median follow-up of 9.5 years. We used country-specific food-frequency questionnaires to determine dietary intake and estimated the glycemic index and glycemic load on the basis of the consumption of seven categories of carbohydrate foods. We calculated hazard ratios using multivariable Cox frailty models. The primary outcome was a composite of a major cardiovascular event (cardiovascular death, nonfatal myocardial infarction, stroke, and heart failure) or death from any cause.
In the study population, 8780 deaths and 8252 major cardiovascular events occurred during the follow-up period. After performing extensive adjustments comparing the lowest and highest glycemic-index quintiles, we found that a diet with a high glycemic index was associated with an increased risk of a major cardiovascular event or death, both among participants with preexisting cardiovascular disease (hazard ratio, 1.51; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.25 to 1.82) and among those without such disease (hazard ratio, 1.21; 95% CI, 1.11 to 1.34). Among the components of the primary outcome, a high glycemic index was also associated with an increased risk of death from cardiovascular causes. The results with respect to glycemic load were similar to the findings regarding the glycemic index among the participants with cardiovascular disease at baseline, but the association was not significant among those without preexisting cardiovascular disease.
In this study, a diet with a high glycemic index was associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and death.
Posted onDecember 29, 2020|Comments Off on Blood Pressure Lowering Barely Lowered the Incidence of Dementia in New Meta-Analysis
I haven’t read the entire article below and probably won’t ever. It will be used to promote treatment of mild to moderate hypertension in order to prevent dementia, despite cost and drug side effects. Results are distinctly unimpressive. Four years of drug therapy reduced the incidence of dementia and cognitive decline by less than 1%.
I was expecting and hoping for a much more significant reduction. Nevertheless, anti-hypertensive drug therapy is pretty well established as an effective preventative for cardiovascular disease, including stroke.
From JAMA Network:
Fourteen randomized clinical trials were eligible for inclusion (96 158 participants), of which 12 reported the incidence of dementia (or composite of dementia and cognitive impairment [3 trials]) on follow-up and were included in the primary meta-analysis, 8 reported cognitive decline, and 8 reported changes in cognitive test scores. The mean (SD) age of trial participants was 69 (5.4) years and 40 617 (42.2%) were women. The mean systolic baseline blood pressure was 154 (14.9) mm Hg and the mean diastolic blood pressure was 83.3 (9.9) mm Hg. The mean duration of follow-up was 49.2 months. Blood pressure lowering with antihypertensive agents compared with control was significantly associated with a reduced risk of dementia or cognitive impairment (12 trials; 92 135 participants) (7.0% vs 7.5% of patients over a mean trial follow-up of 4.1 years; odds ratio [OR], 0.93 [95% CI, 0.88-0.98]; absolute risk reduction, 0.39% [95% CI, 0.09%-0.68%]; I2 = 0.0%) and cognitive decline (8 trials) (20.2% vs 21.1% of participants over a mean trial follow-up of 4.1 years; OR, 0.93 [95% CI, 0.88-0.99]; absolute risk reduction, 0.71% [95% CI, 0.19%-1.2%]; I2 = 36.1%). Blood pressure lowering was not significantly associated with a change in cognitive test scores.
Conclusions and Relevance
In this meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials, blood pressure lowering with antihypertensive agents compared with control was significantly associated with a lower risk of incident dementia or cognitive impairment.