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Western Diet May Increase Risk of Heart Attack

A study published in the October 2008 edition of the Journal Circulation examined the dietary habits of people in 52 countries around the world and found that people who maintained a western diet (high in fried foods, salty snacks, eggs, and meat) had the highest risk of heart attack.

The study included 16,000 participants from across the globe, 5,700 of whom had recently suffered their first heart attack.

The researchers took blood samples from the volunteers between 1999 and 2003. Each participant also filled out detailed questionnaires about their eating habits.

The volunteers were then divided into three groups based on their eating habits. The "oriental" group included participants with a diet high in soy, tofu and fish. The "western" group maintained a diet rich in fried foods, salty snacks and meat. The “prudent” group consumed lots of fruits and vegetables.

The researchers found that participants with a western diet had a 35 percent higher risk of heart attack compared to those who ate little or no fried foods, salty snacks or meat.

Those in the prudent group had a 30 percent lower risk of having a heart attack compared to people who eat very few fruits and vegetables. Participants who ate an oriental diet had about average risk of having a heart attack.

The findings of this large international study supports a large body of evidence associating junk food and animal fats with increased risk of heart disease and cardiac arrest. Another factor that could impact the higher risk for heart attack in the western diet could be an on over abundance of omega-6 fatty acids.

It's easy to confuse omega-6 fatty acids with omega-3s, but the two are very different. While omega-3s fight inflammation, omega-6s cause it. High levels of omega-6 fatty acids have been linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases, cancer, inflammatory and auto-immune diseases.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommend a diet that contains a ratio of about 1 to 1 Omega-3s to Omega-6s. The problem is that western style diets contain about 15-20 times more Omega-6s than Omega-3s.

The best way to fix this imbalance is by changing your diet. Eating less fried foods, salty snacks and red meat, while increasing consumption of fish, fruits and vegetables can help restore balance in your body.

If changing your diet proves difficult you may want to try a high quality fish oil supplement. It's an easy way to get more omega-3s and correct this imbalance.
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