HEALTH SNIPPETS Shift focus from calorie counting to nutritional value for heart health, say experts
It’s time to stop counting the calories, and instead start promoting the nutritional value of foods if we are to rapidly cut illness and death from cardiovascular disease and curb the rising tide of obesity, say experts in an editorial published in the online journal Open Heart.
Drawing on published evidence, doctors Aseem Malhotra and James DiNicolantonio and Professor Simon Capewell argue that simple dietary changes – rather like stopping smoking – can rapidly improve health outcomes at the population level. For example, boosting omega 3 fatty acid (from fatty fish), olive oil and nut intake have all been associated with reductions in deaths from all causes and from cardiovascular disease, within months.
Daily consumption of a sugary drink (150 calories) is associated with a significantly increased risk of type 2 diabetes, whereas daily consumption of a handful of nuts (30 g of walnuts, 15 g of almonds and 15 g hazelnuts) or four tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil (around 500 calories) is associated with a significantly reduced risk of heart attack and stroke.
“Shifting the focus away from calories and emphasising a dietary pattern that focuses on food quality rather than quantity will help to rapidly reduce obesity, related diseases, and cardiovascular risk,” the research team state. “Primary and secondary care clinicians have a duty to their individual patients and also to their local populations. Our collective failure to act is an option we cannot afford.”
The evidence shows that poor diet is consistently responsible for more disease and death than physical inactivity, smoking and alcohol put together, they say, calling for sugary drinks to be taxed, government subsidies to make fruit, vegetables and nuts more affordable, and tighter controls on the marketing of junk food.