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A recent study by McMaster University and Hamilton Health Sciences researchers at the Population Research Health Institute (PHRI) investigating the relationship between diet and cardiovascular diseases (CVD) revealed that not eating sufficient amounts of certain foods increases the risk of CVD.

Whole grains key in a balanced diet

Eating a variety of healthy foods like vegetables, fruits, nuts, legumes, whole-fat dairy, and fish can reduce the chances of CVD, which includes strokes and heart attacks. The research also suggests that a balanced diet can be attained by incorporating moderate portions of unprocessed meats or whole grains.

The study, published in the European Heart Journal, analyzed data from 245,000 individuals in 80 countries with a focus on cardiovascular diseases (CVD) and their causes. Past studies primarily concentrated on Western countries and diets that combined unhealthy, processed foods with nutritious ones.

Cardiovascular diseases are a global problem, and according to the World Health Organization, there were approximately 18 million deaths globally in 2019, with heart attacks and strokes accounting for 85 per cent of these deaths.

In the latest study, researchers used the PHRI’s global Prospective Urban and Rural Epidemiological (PURE) study to create a diet score. They then conducted five separate studies to assess the health outcomes of individuals with and without previous cardiovascular disease.

Unprocessed meats and unrefined grains can lower CVD risk

Senior study author and lead investigator of PURE Salim Yusuf said that past diet scores such as the Mediterranean Diet and EAT-Lancet Planetary Diet mainly focused on diet connection to CVD and death in the Western world. However, the PURE Health Diet Score had a high representation of low, middle and high-income countries.

First author Andrew Mente said that they were unique with their PURE Health Diet Score since it focused mainly on natural or protective foods. He added that other food diet scores combined harmful foods like ultra-processed foods with nutrients and foods thought to be protective of one’s health.

It is important to note that moderate amounts of whole-fat dairy and fish are linked to low CVD risk and mortality. Interestedly similar outcomes are possible with the consumption of unprocessed meats ad unrefined grains.