Recent large studies from the American Heart Association have made some changes to the guidelines on diet. In particular, the diet guideline suggested that fruits, fish, legumes, poultry and vegetables were acceptable. But perhaps more controversially, the diet stated that nuts of all types were recommended. Not surprising, red meat, sugar, trans fats sodium and saturated fats were to be restricted.
Evidence of fruit and vegetable consumption in decreasing heart disease was see in studying around 100,000 men and women in a Nurse’s Health Study and Health Professional Follow-Up Study. Of significance were that variety was more important than quantity.
Nut consumption was shown to have decreased risk in heart disease. In fact patients with more nut consumption had corresponding lower heart disease than those without in a study of more than 3 million person-years of Nurse’s Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study with a 20% reduction in mortality in subjects who eat nuts 7 or more times a week versus 7% reduction in mortality in those who did not eat nuts.
Meat consumption, in particular processed meat and red meat, had significantly higher mortality especially cardiovascular diseases. Most of the data from meat consumption was taken from an analysis of nearly 500,000 participants in the European Prospective Investigation Into Cancer and Nutrition trial. The study stated that red meat consumption over 5.6 ounces per day had 44% all-cause mortality. An additional trial in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition noted that individuals with a 20 year history of low meat consumption lived an additional 3.6 years longer.
So what is the take home points of these recent large trials? First of all, nuts, even though they may be high in fats, are considered heart healthy. Red meat is not. An ideal diet for prolonging longevity on current studies would be a highly varied diet high in fruits, vegetables with low red meat consumption.