These dietary patterns avoid heart disease

These dietary patterns avoid heart disease

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Nutrition: The big picture counts

Salt, sugar and pork are unhealthy, broccoli and nuts are healthy - in numerous studies on food, only one food is considered as a whole. A current study now shows that it is much more about the overall picture that makes up the diet. The team found that certain nutritional patterns are associated with a lower risk of heart attack, stroke and other cardiovascular diseases.

Researchers at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health showed that adults who consume vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes and nuts frequently and limit the consumption of red and processed meat as well as sugary drinks are less likely to develop heart disease or suffer cardiovascular events such as a heart attack or stroke . The research results were recently presented in the renowned journal "JAMA Internal medicine".

What pattern do you follow?

Sticking to healthy eating habits is associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular diseases. The current study suggests that it makes more sense to stick to a healthy eating pattern than to focus on individual healthy or unhealthy foods. There is no one right way, it depends on the pattern that the diet is based on.

Many ways lead to a healthy diet

"Although each healthy eating pattern included a different combination of nutritional components, our study shows that there are mainly four healthy eating patterns associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular diseases," explains study author Zhilei Shan. This advantage persisted among all the races and ethnic groups examined.

The researchers examined four major nutrition guidelines for commonalities, namely the "Healthy Eating Index-2015" (HEI-2015), the "Alternate Mediterranean Diet Score" (AMED), the "Healthful Plant-Based Diet Index" (HPDI) and the "Alternate Healthy Eating Index" (AHEI). Despite different assessment methods, each of these patterns emphasizes the higher consumption of whole grain cereals, vegetables, fruits, legumes and nuts as well as the lower consumption of red and processed meat and sugared drinks.

Huge amounts of data were searched

In order to assess the relationships between the individual patterns and the occurrence of heart diseases, the research team analyzed the nutritional data of over 160,000 women and over 43,000 men. The data were collected over the course of three major nutritional studies. All participants were asked about their eating habits for at least two years.

A healthy diet reduces the risk of heart disease by 20 percent

After eliminating numerous factors, including age, BMI, and smoking status, the analysis found that better adherence to a healthy diet was consistently associated with a lower risk of developing heart disease. Those who strictly followed a healthy eating pattern had an up to 21 percent lower risk of heart disease than those who least followed a healthy eating pattern.

The participants came from different regions and belonged to different ethnic groups, all of whom had different eating habits. However, the effects were all similar. So it doesn't seem important, for example, which fruit or vegetables you eat as long as you eat enough fruit and vegetables.

Everyone can put together a healthy diet

"These data provide further evidence that adhering to healthy eating habits brings long-term health benefits in preventing cardiovascular disease," said nutrition professor and corresponding study author Fredrick J. Stare. There is no best unified diet. Everyone can find their way to a healthy eating pattern in diverse and flexible ways, taking personal preferences and cultural traditions into account. (vb)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the requirements of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.

Graduate editor (FH) Volker Blasek


  • Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: Following a variety of healthy eating patterns associated with lower heart disease risk (published: June 26th, 2020),
  • Zhilei Shan, Yanping Li, Megu Y. Baden, et al .: Association Between Healthy Eating Patterns and Risk of Cardiovascular Disease; in: JAMA Internal medicine, 2020,

Video: Heart Disease Prevention: The Impact of Diet and Exercise on Heart Health; By David Maron, MD (September 2022).


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