Healthy Foods More Important than Type of Diet to Reduce Heart Disease Risk

Lindsey Diaz-MacInnis wrote . . . . . . . . .

Everyone knows that achieving or maintaining a healthy body weight is one key to preventing cardiovascular disease. But even experts don’t agree on the best way to achieve that goal, with some recommending eliminating carbohydrates and others emphasizing reducing fats to lose weight. Few studies have investigated the effects of these specific macronutrients on cardiovascular health.

In a study published online in the International Journal of Cardiology, researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) examined the effects of three healthy diets emphasizing different macronutrients – carbohydrates, proteins, or unsaturated fats – on a biomarker that directly reflects heart injury. Using highly specific tests, the team found that all three diets reduced heart cell damage and inflammation, consistent with improved heart health.

“It’s possible that macronutrients matter less than simply eating healthy foods,” said corresponding author Stephen Juraschek, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Medicine at BIDMC and Harvard Medical School. “Our findings support flexibility in food selection for people attempting to eat a healthier diet and should make it easier. With the average American eating fewer than two servings of fruit and vegetables a day, the typical American diet is quite different from any of these diets, which all included at least four to six servings of fruits and vegetables a day.”

Juraschek and colleagues analyzed stored blood samples from 150 participants of the Optimal MacroNutrient Intake Trial to Prevent Heart Disease (OmniHeart) trial, a two-center, inpatient feeding study conducted in Boston and Baltimore between April 2003 and June 2005. The average age among the study participants was 53.6 years, while 55 percent were African American and 45 percent were women. The participants – all of whom had elevated blood pressure, but were not yet taking medications to control hypertension or cholesterol – were fed each of three diets – emphasizing carbohydrates, protein, or unsaturated fat – for six weeks with feeding periods separated by a washout period.

The diets were: a carbohydrate-rich diet similar to the well-known DASH diet, with sugars, grains and starches accounting for more than half of its calories; a protein-rich diet with 10 percent of calories from carbohydrates replaced by protein; and an unsaturated fat-rich diet with 10 percent of calories from carbohydrates replaced by the healthy fats found in avocados, fish and nuts. All three diets were low in unhealthy saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium, while providing other nutrients at recommended dietary levels. The research team looked at the effects of each diet on biomarkers measured at the end of each dietary period compared to baseline and compared between diets.

All three healthy diets reduced heart injury and inflammation and acted quickly within a 6-week period. However, changing the macronutrients of the diet did not provide extra benefits. This is important for two reasons: First, the effects of diet on heart injury are rapid and cardiac injury can be reduced soon after adopting a healthy diet. Second, it is not the type of diet that matters for cardiac injury (high or low fat, high or low carb), but rather the overall healthfulness of the diet.

“There are multiple debates about dietary carbs and fat, but the message from our data is clear: eating a balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables, lean meats, and high in fiber that is restricted in red meats, sugary beverages, and sweets, will not only improve cardiovascular risk factors, but also reduce direct injury to the heart,” said Juraschek. “Hopefully, these findings will resonate with adults as they shop in grocery stores and with health practitioners providing counsel in clinics throughout the country.”

Source: Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center

Today’s Comic


Suggested Move to Plant-based Diets Risks Worsening Brain Health Nutrient Deficiency

The momentum behind a move to plant-based and vegan diets for the good of the planet is commendable, but risks worsening an already low intake of an essential nutrient involved in brain health, warns a nutritionist in the online journal BMJ Nutrition, Prevention & Health.

To make matters worse, the UK government has failed to recommend or monitor dietary levels of this nutrient–choline–found predominantly in animal foods, says Dr Emma Derbyshire, of Nutritional Insight, a consultancy specialising in nutrition and biomedical science.

Choline is an essential dietary nutrient, but the amount produced by the liver is not enough to meet the requirements of the human body.

Choline is critical to brain health, particularly during fetal development. It also influences liver function, with shortfalls linked to irregularities in blood fat metabolism as well as excess free radical cellular damage, writes Dr Derbyshire.

The primary sources of dietary choline are found in beef, eggs, dairy products, fish, and chicken, with much lower levels found in nuts, beans, and cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli.

In 1998, recognising the importance of choline, the US Institute of Medicine recommended minimum daily intakes. These range from 425 mg/day for women to 550 mg/day for men, and 450 mg/day and 550 mg/day for pregnant and breastfeeding women, respectively, because of the critical role the nutrient has in fetal development.

In 2016, the European Food Safety Authority published similar daily requirements. Yet national dietary surveys in North America, Australia, and Europe show that habitual choline intake, on average, falls short of these recommendations.

“This is….concerning given that current trends appear to be towards meat reduction and plant-based diets,” says Dr Derbyshire.

She commends the first report (EAT-Lancet) to compile a healthy food plan based on promoting environmental sustainability, but suggests that the restricted intakes of whole milk, eggs and animal protein it recommends could affect choline intake.

And she is at a loss to understand why choline does not feature in UK dietary guidance or national population monitoring data.

“Given the important physiological roles of choline and authorisation of certain health claims, it is questionable why choline has been overlooked for so long in the UK,” she writes. “Choline is presently excluded from UK food composition databases, major dietary surveys, and dietary guidelines,” she adds.

It may be time for the UK government’s independent Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition to reverse this, she suggests, particularly given the mounting evidence on the importance of choline to human health and growing concerns about the sustainability of the planet’s food production.

“More needs to be done to educate healthcare professionals and consumers about the importance of a choline-rich diet, and how to achieve this,” she writes.

“If choline is not obtained in the levels needed from dietary sources per se then supplementation strategies will be required, especially in relation to key stages of the life cycle, such as pregnancy, when choline intakes are critical to infant development,” she concludes.

Source: BMJ

Hong Kong Consumer Council Issues Warning Over Labels for Vegetarian Meat

Kanis Leung wrote . . . . . . . . .

Hong Kong’s vegetarian “meat” might not be as healthy and nutritious as manufacturers claim, with one sample found to contain animal genes, Hong Kong consumer watchdog warned on Thursday.

The Consumer Council examined 35 samples of pre-packaged vegetarian meat, saying all failed to fully comply with the technical guidance of the Centre for Food Safety requirements on nutrition labelling.

Releasing the findings, the watchdog said four samples found to contain animal genes or animal-derived ingredients were inaccurately labelled.

Fish and pig genes were detected in vegetarian fishballs sold under the Saturday brand, manufactured in Taiwan, despite the product being labelled as “ovo-lacto” – containing dairy and egg ingredients.

Three other products, which claimed to be “lacto”– with dairy elements – also contained traces of egg.

The council’s publicity and community relations committee chairman Clement Chan Kam-wing said the reasons could be manufacturers had used animal-derived condiments or ingredients, or egg white as a binding agent. The production line being contaminated by the materials in question could also be a factor.

“The council stressed that food producers have the responsibility to ensure vegetarian meat products do not contain ingredients from animal genes or animal sources,” he said.

The watchdog added incorrect labelling might mislead consumers and the disparity between the declared qualities and actual ones in products could be a contravention of the Trade Descriptions Ordinance.

Under the ordinance, any trader who applies a false or misleading trade description to a service or product using aggressive commercial practices or bait advertising is liable to a maximum fine of HK$500,000 (US$63,727) and up to five years in prison.

In a reply to the council, the agent for Saturday said the product in question was made in a factory that also processed meat. Even though the manufacturer did not add meat ingredients to the fishball product, it could not guarantee that in the shared facility the product would not get contaminated during production.

The agent also said the product’s label told consumers that part of the manufacturing process was conducted in regular food factories, using the words “if there is any doubt, consumption is not recommended”.

It promised to study ways to ensure there would no longer be contamination in the manufacturing process. If it could not ultimately satisfy the requirements, it might stop importing the product.

Council chief executive Gilly Wong Fung-han urged manufacturers to be more careful in producing vegetarian meats because it was difficult for consumers to identify whether the products were as they claimed to be.

“No consumer has the ability to test the meat they buy before eating,” she said.

The study also found that nearly 60 per cent, or 20 samples examined, were classified as high in salt, containing more than 600 mg of sodium per 100 g, according to the guidelines laid out by the Centre for Food Safety.

The protein content in three vegetarian seafood samples tested was said to be generally low.

One vegan prawn product by Batata Greens, which is also marked as manufactured in Taiwan, was labelled as having 2.3 g of protein per 100 g, but it was found to have none.

The agent of Batata Greens explained to the council that the labelling requirements in the product’s jurisdiction of manufacture are different from those in Hong Kong, causing the disparity. It had immediately got in touch with the manufacturers and related departments to stop selling the products.

Meanwhile, the examination detected preservatives in six products, even though none of the samples provided information of such substances on their lists of ingredients.

Wong suggested the government take note of practices in other countries and introduce laws or guidelines governing the definition of vegetarian meat and its labelling.

Source: SCMP

Nutritionist Explores Benefits of Ripe and Unripe Bananas

Laura House wrote . . . . . . . . .

As one of the cheapest and most satiating fruits, bananas are up there with the most popular snacks you can buy.

And while their health benefits are widely known, few are aware of how the ripeness of a banana impacts on its nutritional make-up.

So to help make it clear, Australian sports dietitian Ryan Pinto recently shared a graphic about the various benefits – and why eating an over-ripe banana may not be a great idea.

‘The best way to understand how the health of a banana can change is by investigating what really happens to them internally over time,’ he wrote on his page, High Performance Nutrition AU.

Green bananas

According to Ryan, green bananas are ‘youthful, low FODMAP and full of starch’.

‘Referred to as “resistant” starch, this nutrient makes your digestive system work a little harder. It’s also the reason why green bananas seem to fill you up so quickly,’ he wrote.

However, the starch in green bananas can also ‘make you feel gassy or bloated’ and also ‘contributes to their waxy texture’.

‘If you’re looking for a banana that’s lower GI, go for a green one. Eventually, your body will break this starch down into glucose. This way, green bananas will raise blood sugar levels slowly,’ he said.

‘The trade-off here is taste. Green bananas can be bitter, as they contain less sugar in every bite.’

Yellow bananas

‘Say goodbye to starch and hello to sugar,’ Ryan said.

According to the sports dietitian, yellow bananas are ‘softer and sweeter’ because it contains more sugar. They’re also higher on the glyecmic index, meaning they’re easier to digest.

‘With less starch to break down, your digestive system will soak up the nutrients quicker,’ Ryan said.

‘Unfortunately, there is always micronutrient loss as bananas age. To make up for this, yellow bananas are more developed when it comes to antioxidants.’

Dietitian Leanne Ward, from Brisbane, usually has a boiled egg and a yellow banana as her second meal of the day.

She tends to eat around six meals a day, alongside plenty of herbal tea and water.

Spotted Bananas

Very ripe bananas often exhibit brown spots on their flesh and are much sweeter in taste, which is down to their higher sugar content.

‘Not only do brown spots show that a banana has aged, but they also indicate how much starch has been converted to sugar,’ Ryan explained.

‘Ultimately, the greater number of brown spots a banana has, the more sugar it contains.’

However, Ryan says brown spots can also be seen as ‘tiny immune system boosters’.

‘Spotted bananas are so rich in antioxidants that they have been linked to cancer prevention.

Tumor Necrosis Factor (TNF), which functions to destroy tumours, is linked to those brown dots,’ he said.

Brown Bananas

‘Do you remember all that resistant starch? Well, it’s practically all sugar now,’ Ryan said.

‘Just as the starch has broken down into sugar, chlorophyll has taken a new form as well.

This breakdown of chlorophyll is the reason why antioxidant levels increase as bananas age.

All bananas are around 100 calories, low in fat and are rich sources of potassium, vitamin B6, vitamin C and fibre.’

Source: Daily Mail

Fruit Sugars vs. Other Sugars

Zawn Villines wrote . . . . . . . . .

The sugars that manufacturers most commonly use in foods include:

  • corn syrup, which is usually 100% glucose
  • fructose, which is sugar from fruit
  • galactose, which forms the milk sugar lactose when combined with glucose
  • high fructose corn syrup, which combines refined fructose and glucose but with a higher percentage of fructose
  • maltose, which is from two glucose units
  • sucrose, or white or table sugar, which is equal parts fructose and glucose

These sugars differ from fruit sugar because they undergo processing and manufacturers tend to overuse them as additives in food and other products. Our bodies also metabolize these sugars more quickly.

For example, sucrose can make coffee sweeter, and high fructose corn syrup is a common additive in many processed products, such as soda, fruit snacks and bars, and more.

Potential risks

Research consistently links refined and added fructose, both of which are present in sugar and sweetened products, to a higher risk of health conditions such as diabetes and heart disease.

It is worth reiterating, however, that this research looked exclusively at fructose in its processed form as an additive in sweetened foods, not at fructose from whole fruits.

Although some fad and extreme diets aim to reduce or eliminate fruit from the diet, for most people, there is no evidence to suggest that fruit is harmful.

A 2014 study comparing fructose with glucose reviewed 20 controlled feeding trials. Although pooled analyses suggested that added fructose could raise cholesterol, uric acid, and triglycerides, it did not have a more negative effect on lipid profile, markers for nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, or insulin.

People with diabetes can also safely consume fruit. In many cases, sweet fruit can satisfy a craving for something else. Fruit has far less sugar than most sweet snacks, which can mean that a person consumes fewer calories and less sugar while also obtaining valuable nutrients.

Things to be aware of

Whole fruit is always a better choice than packaged or processed fruits.

For example, manufacturers tend to heavily sweeten and highly process fruit juices. Flavored juices that they market to children often contain large amounts of added sugars. These juices are not a substitute for whole fruit, and they may significantly increase a person’s sugar consumption.

People who consume canned fruits should check the label, as some canned fruits contain sweeteners or other flavoring agents that can greatly increase their sugar content.

A very high intake of fruit, as with any other food, may cause a person to consume too many calories, which may increase their risk of obesity. Overeating fruit, however, is difficult.

To exceed a 2,000-calorie-per-day diet by only eating fruit, a person would have to eat approximately 18 bananas, 15 apples, or 44 kiwifruits each day. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), however, most people eat fewer than five servings of fruit per day.

Some of the only people who should avoid fruit are those with rare conditions that affect the way their bodies absorb or metabolize fructose. People with specific fruit allergies should also avoid some types of fruit.

A condition called fructose malabsorption, for instance, can cause fructose to ferment in the colon, causing stomach pain and diarrhea. Also, a rare genetic disorder called hereditary fructose intolerance interferes with the liver’s ability to metabolize fruit, which may require a person to adopt a diet without fructose.

Pregnant women in their second trimester should try to avoid eating more than four servings of fruit per day, especially of fruits that are high on the glycemic index. They may also wish to avoid tropical fruits, as these may increase the risk of gestational diabetes.

Benefits of eating fruit

The benefits of eating fruit far outweigh any purported or hypothetical risks. The benefits include:

  • Increased fiber intake: Consuming fiber can help a person feel fuller for longer, reduce food cravings, nourish healthful gut bacteria, and support healthful weight loss. Consuming fiber may also help a person maintain more consistent blood glucose, which is especially important for people with diabetes.
  • Lower sugar consumption: People who replace sweet snacks with fruit may eat less sugar and fewer calories.
  • Better overall health: Fruit consumption is linked to a wide range of health benefits. Fruit and vegetable consumption, according to one 2017 analysis, reduces the overall risk of death. Consuming fruits and vegetables also lowers the risk of a range of health conditions, including heart disease and cancer.
  • Lower risk of obesity: People who consume fruit are less likely to develop obesity and the health issues associated with it.

Fruit consumption is so beneficial to health that a 2019 systematic review concluded that the current recommendations might actually underestimate the benefits of eating fruits and vegetables.


Nowadays, it can be difficult to separate nutritional facts from fiction, especially for people who are eager to lose weight, live longer, and feel better.

People should talk to a doctor or dietitian before making any dramatic changes to their diet. However, for most people, it is safe and recommended to eat several servings of whole fruit per day.

People with diabetes can also enjoy fruit regularly, though low glycemic and high fiber fruits are best.

Source: Medical News Today