Dietary Changes, Not Calorie Counting, Recommended to Reduce Cardiovascular Death
Illnesses associated with obesity accountg for more death and disease than physical inactivity, smoking, and alcohol combined. A recent editorial in the online journal Open Heart suggests that it’s time to shift our focus from calorie counting to nutritional content of foods in order to fight back against the growing obesity epidemic and reduce the number of cardiovascular deaths. In particular, the editorial’s authors recommended following the Mediterranean diet.
The authors suggest that rather than focusing on calorie levels, doctors and other health professionals should be recommending dietary changes. For example, omega-3 fatty acids, olive oil, and nuts are all high-calorie foods that might be excluded from a low calorie diet, but all of them have been linked in various studies with a reduction in death from cardiovascular disease and all causes. One study even suggested that increasing the US populations’ intake of nuts by two servings per week could reduce the number of deaths by cardiovascular disease per year by 90,000.
On the other hand, drinking a sugary drink that contains only 150 calories every day could significantly boost a person’s risk of developing type-2 diabetes.
They also noted that a study conducted by the Action for Health in Diabetes found that combining a low calorie diet with increased physical activity in people with type-2 diabetes was not associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular death, even though the participants lost a significant amount of weight during the 13.5 year study period.
They concluded by recommending the high fat Mediterranean diet as the best diet for people to follow. The key components of the Mediterranean diet are eating primarily plant-based foods, replacing butter with olive oil, using herbs and spices instead of salt, eating red meat no more than a few times a month, eating fish and poultry at least twice a week.
Previous research has shown that the Mediterranean diet may improve heart health, lower the risk of diabetes, asthma, lower rates of obesity and even decrease the overall risk of mortality.