American Heart Association: Under the… Microscope 10 Popular Diets

By | May 8, 2023

Under the microscope, the American Heart Association put 10 popular diets to keep heart disease at bay, which is the leading cause of death among men and women worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. However, there are ways to reduce the risk of developing heart disease.

Along with regular exercise and not smoking, a healthy diet is the key to keeping heart disease at bay.

But which diet best meets the American Heart Association (AHA) guidelines?

In a new scientific statement, leading nutrition experts have rated 10 popular diets on how well they fit with the AHA guidelines for a healthy heart, published in 2021.

The winner was the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet, which is 100% aligned with your goals AHA. High blood pressure is a major factor in heart disease and stroke.

The pescatarian diet, which allows the consumption of dairy, eggs, fish and shellfish, but no meat or poultry, was 92% in line with AHA guidelines. The lacto-ovo-vegetarian diet, which allows dairy and eggs, and variations that include one or the other, was 86% compliant.

The award-winning Mediterranean diet was 89% aligned with AHA recommendations. The Popular Diet ranked third, mainly because it recommends a glass of red wine every day and doesn’t limit salt, says the study’s lead author, Christopher Gardner, a professor of medicine at the Stanford Center for Preventive Research in California, USA. He directs the Nutrition Studies Research Group.

“According to the American Heart Association, we shouldn’t start drinking alcohol if we haven’t already, and if we do, we should be drinking very little,” says Gardner.

Research links the Mediterranean diet to a lower risk of diabetes, high cholesterol, dementia, memory loss, depression and breast cancer, as well as weight loss, stronger bones, a healthier heart and a longer life.

But all of these diets have so much in common that they can actually be lumped into a higher category of eating patterns, says Gardner.

“Essentially we’re trying to say that a diet doesn’t have to be 100% perfect. All diets in this category are plant-based, and if they deviate a bit, corrections can be made. However, paleo and keto don’t meet. they can fix. They need to be completely restructured,” he adds.

Low-carb diets, such as Atkins, and various ketogenic diets, such as the Shapely Ketogenic Diet, fell into the latter category due to their emphasis on red meat, full-fat dairy, and saturated fat, as well as limited amounts of fruit and vegetable consumption.

The vegetarian diet with more than 10% fat and low-fat diets, such as the volumetric diet, were found in the second category. Both agreed with 78% of the AHA guidelines.

Very low-fat diets with less than 10% fat, such as some vegetarian diets (72%) and low-carb diets such as South Beach, Zone, and low-glycemic diets (64%), were less aligned with the AHA recommendations and were classified in the third category.

The goal is to inform doctors.

While those concerned about their heart health can and should take advantage of the new evaluation of the AHA’s 10 Dietary Patterns, the scientific statement was written for physicians, Gardner notes. The goal is to educate doctors, since nutrition is often not prioritized in medical school.

According to him, “it’s ‘dust’ for doctors. When they ask questions about our diet, which I don’t think happens very often, and the patient says, ‘I’m on paleo/keto/DASH’ or ‘I’m a vegetarian,’ I don’t think know exactly what that means.”

This is exactly what is happening, says preventive cardiologist Dr. Andrew Freeman, director of cardiovascular disease prevention at the National Jewish Health Hospital in Denver, USA.

“Five or six years ago, we asked 1,000 cardiologists, and about 90 percent of us knew next to nothing about nutrition,” Freeman says.

However, he adds, cardiologists should discuss nutrition with their patients during routine exams.

“If you were to ask me if I think we should have focused our attention on nutrition in the last 100 years, the answer would be yes. We have to do it a little more each time,” says Freeman.

Now, with a plan in hand, doctors will be able to say which foods to emphasize, which to limit, and which to avoid, Gardner says. Instead of talking about the benefits of specific nutrients and foods, general advice on our eating habits should be given.

“If the problem were just one nutrient, we could add it to our food and say we have a healthy plate. Or, if we’re talking about a superfood like chia seeds, we could take an unhealthy food, throw it on top and say, ‘now I’m protected.” Wrong, everything should be part of a set of healthy eating habits,” he adds.

At this point, Gardner insists that each diet is evaluated by its rules, not by what people actually do. The new ad tells doctors how they can advise patients who are not eating well, due to cost, time or other reasons.

However, sticking to that diet can take more than just willpower, Freeman says.

“It is difficult to faithfully follow a diet in a society where hyper-processed foods are the norm and ask society to change such a large part of everyday life,” he explains.

“But I would tell you that the plant-based food movement is the fastest growing food movement in the US, so there is hope,” Freeman concludes.


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