A new study has found that the foods that make up a heart-healthy diet may differ from what was previously thought…

It’s Heart Awareness Month, which means we’ll be talking about following a heart-healthy diet. However, what a heart-healthy diet looks like might not be what we expect, according to results from the Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiological (PURE) study.

“Thinking on what constitutes a high-quality diet for a global population needs to be reconsidered. For example, our results show that dairy products and meat are beneficial for heart health and longevity. This differs from current dietary advice,” says Professor Salim Yusuf, senior author and director of the Population Health Research Institute (PHRI) at McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada.

Current dietary recommendations based on old studies

Recommendations for a high-quality diet to avoid heart disease are largely based on studies conducted decades ago in high-income countries. There is little information on what people eat today across the world.

This study aimed to clarify the constituents of a modern and international diet that promotes heart health and longevity. A dietary quality score was developed based on foods associated with a lower risk of death in previous studies (fruit, vegetables, nuts, legumes, fish, dairy products, and meat).

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Our results show that dairy products and meat are beneficial for heart health and longevity. This differs from current dietary advice,” says Professor Salim Yusuf

New study spanned across 50 countries

Participants of five studies including more than 218 000 people from over 50 countries in five continents divided into five groups according to the quality of their diet. The risks of cardiovascular disease and death in those with the highest quality diet (18 points or more) were compared to those with the poorest quality diet (11 points or less).

“People who consumed a diet emphasising fruit, vegetables, nuts, legumes, fish, dairy products, and meat had the lowest risks of cardiovascular disease and early death,” said co-principal investigator Dr Andrew Mente, of the PHRI. “Regarding meat, we found that unprocessed meat is associated with the benefit.”

New study cautions against low-carbohydrate diets

 What we should be eating

The results suggest that we should limit the number of refined carbohydrates we eat and that dairy foods and unprocessed meat can be included as part of a healthy diet.

Co-principal investigator Dr Mahshid Dehghan, also a PHRI investigator, added: “Our results appeared to apply to people from different parts of the world and so the findings are globally applicable.”

Source: European Society of Cardiology 

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