Heart Disease :: Protein and unsaturated fat may enhance heart health benefits

The types of food eaten in an effort to cut down on saturated fat may make a difference in reducing heart disease risk, according to a study of people with either high blood pressure or prehypertension. The study was supported by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), a part of the National Institutes of Health.

Investigators evaluated three diets that follow the principles of NHLBI’s DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) eating plan with some modifications. One diet emphasized carbohydrates, another diet emphasized protein, and the third emphasized monounsaturated fat. They reported that while all three diets lowered blood pressure, improved cholesterol levels, and reduced ten-year risk of heart disease by as much as 16 to 21 percent, two of these modified diets were even more effective in reducing some risk factors and estimated risk for heart disease than the diet richer in carbohydrates.

The Optimal Macronutrient Intake Trial to Prevent Heart Disease (OmniHeart) study will be presented today in Dallas at the American Heart Association annual conference, and also published in the November 15 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

These new OmniHeart study results do not represent new guidelines for healthy eating and the proportions of carbohydrate, protein, and fat for all three diets are all within the ranges recommended by the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans and other national public health organizations. Earlier in 2005, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services incorporated NHLBI’s DASH eating plan as one option within the U.S. Dietary Guidelines.

All of the studied diets are a vast improvement over the typical American diet which can be high in saturated fat and low in essential nutrients, according to NHLBI Director Elizabeth G. Nabel, M.D.

“This study builds on an established body of evidence that shows following a dietary pattern lower in saturated fat, such as the DASH eating plan, can go a long way toward improving overall heart health. With these new data, we have been able to incorporate even more flexibility into the DASH eating plan by providing additional options for people seeking to improve their heart health through healthier eating,” said Nabel.

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