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Diet guidelines can cut heart disease risk by a third

Blood pressure, cholesterol and weight all improved after following guidelines

Adrian O'Dowd

Thursday, 19 March 2015

People who follow current UK dietary guidelines can help reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease by a third, claims a study* published today in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Researchers from King’s College London and St Thomas’ Hospital, London carried out a randomised controlled trial in 165 healthy non-smoking men and women (aged 40–70).

They measured their ambulatory blood pressure on five occasions, vascular function, and cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factors at baseline and during 12 weeks after randomly being assigned to treatment.

Participants were asked to adapt a modified diet for 12 weeks that included eating oily fish once a week, more fruit and vegetables, wholegrain cereals, low-fat meat and dairy products, and restricted their intake of added sugar and salt.

Those on the modified diet were also asked to replace cakes and cookies with fruit and nuts and were also supplied with cooking oils and spreads high in monounsaturated fat.

Public Health England recommends a balanced diet that is low in saturated fat, salt and sugar and includes oily fish and five portions of fruit and vegetables a day, as part of a healthy lifestyle that includes keeping active and not smoking.

The objective was to compare effects on vascular and lipid CVD risk factors of following the UK dietary guidelines with a traditional British diet.

The researchers found that sticking to national dietary guidelines could reduce a participant’s risk of cardiovascular disease by a third.

The daytime systolic blood pressure was 4.2 mm Hg lower for people following the guidelines and the total cholesterol:HDL cholesterol ratio was 0.13 lower.

In addition, body weight was 1.9 kg lower for the control group.

The researchers concluded: “Selecting a diet consistent with current dietary guidelines lowers blood pressure and lipids, which would be expected to reduce the risk of CVD by one-third in healthy middle-aged and older men and women.”

Tracy Parker, heart health dietitian at the British Heart Foundation, said: “This study reinforces the advice that making small changes to improve your diet can have a big impact on reducing your risk of heart attack and stroke.

“Those people who stuck to the dietary guidelines and ate more fruit, vegetables and oily fish, while reducing saturated fat, salt and sugar intake, significantly reduced their weight, blood pressure and cholesterol levels.”

* Dianne P Reidlinger, et al. How effective are current dietary guidelines for cardiovascular disease prevention in healthy middle-aged and older men and women? A randomized controlled trial. Am J Clin Nutr March 2015 ajcn097352. doi: 10.3945/​ajcn.114.097352

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