Eat Better, Live Longer, Be Smarter
The many benefits of healthful eating and lifestyles have been recently documented in studies published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology and the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
In the first study, researchers surveyed nearly 40,000 women regarding their dietary fiber intake,1 and then tracked the incidence of heart disease in this group for six years.
Generally, the source of fiber for women in the study tended to be divided equally among vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. The researchers found that the women with the highest intake of fiber (an average of 26 grams per day) had only half the incidence of heart attacks as the women eating the least fiber (roughly 12 grams per day).
A diet containing three to five vegetables, two to three fruits, and two to three servings of whole grains or beans per day would likely provide enough fiber to obtain the benefits seen above. High-fiber diets have also been correlated with reduced risk of cancer and diabetes.2 3
The researchers were unable to determine whether it was the fiber itself that provided the cardiovascular benefit seen in the study, or another component of this generally healthful diet. Until the answer to this question is known, a woman of any age looking to protect her heart should focus on a diet high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains or legumes.
In the second study, 1,600 Italians over age 65 were surveyed regarding their diet and lifestyle.4 The results were correlated with their level of age-related brain-function impairment.
As in the study listed above, a diet high in fruits, vegetables, and fiber was found to be beneficial. The greatest benefit of all the dietary components was found to be associated with high fiber consumption.
Hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis) may be the common denominator between these two studies. In addition to being a major cause of heart attacks, atherosclerosis of the arteries of the brain is responsible for some types of age-related decline in brain function. The authors of both studies suggest that the benefits of the healthful diets in these studies are due at least in part to the prevention of hardening of the arteries.
1. Liu S, Buring JE, Sesso HD, et al. A prospective study of dietary fiber intake and risk of cardiovascular disease among women. J Am Coll Cardiol 2002;39:49–56.
2. Freudenheim JL, Marshall JR, Vena JE, et al. Premenopausal breast cancer risk and intake of vegetables, fruits, and related nutrients. J Natl Cancer Inst 1996;88:340–8.
3. Hu FB, Manson JE, Stampfer MJ, et al. Diet, lifestyle, and the risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus in women. N Engl J Med 2001;345:790–7.
4. Correa Leite ML, Nicolosi A, Cristina S, et al. Nutrition and cognitive deficit in the elderly: a population study. Eur J Clin Nutr 2001;55:1053–6.
Matt Brignall, ND, is in practice at the Seattle Cancer Treatment and Wellness Center and at the Evergreen Integrative Medicine Clinic in Kirkland, WA. He specializes in integrative treatment of cancer. He is a contributor to Healthnotes and Healthnotes Newswire.
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