Diet Quality Predicts Mortality In Men

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April 24, 2009

Poor diet quality predicts all cause mortality in men over a 7 year period

Poor diet quality predicts all cause mortality in men over a 7 year period

In the April, 2009 issue of the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Swedish researchers report that men who consumed a relatively high amount of unhealthy foods and failed to consume enough beneficial foods had a greater risk of dying of all causes over a 7.7 year average period compared with those whose diets were healthier.

Alicja Wolk and colleagues at the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm analyzed data from 40,837 participants in the Cohort of Swedish Men, who were free of cancer upon enrollment between 1997 and 1998. Responses to dietary questionnaires completed upon enrollment were scored on the intake of 36 recommended food items, including 13 vegetables, 6 fruits, 7 cereal products, 5 types of fish and seafood, 3 low-fat dairy products, nuts, and olive oil, and 16 non-recommended food items, which included 3 red meat products, 5 processed meat products, 3 high fat dairy products, white bread, sweets, fried potatoes, mayonnaise, and ice cream. Between 1998 and 2005, 4,501 deaths were documented, including 1,394 deaths from cardiovascular disease and 759 deaths from cancer that occurred between 1998 and 2003.

Men with a high recommended food score, who consumed 28 or more recommended foods at least 1 to 3 times per month, had a 19 percent lower rate of dying from any cause over follow-up, and a 29 percent lower rate of dying from cardiovascular disease compared to men who scored low in recommended foods. When non-recommended food scores were analyzed, those with high scores, who reported consuming 5 or more items 3 times per week or more, had a 21 percent greater risk of all-cause mortality and a 27 percent greater risk of cardiovascular disease mortality compared to men with low non-recommended food scores, who consumed 1 to 2 of these foods.

In contrast with the results of other studies, diet scores did not appear to be related to the risk of dying from cancer. The authors write that the shorter duration of the current analysis could be insufficient for the development of some types of cancer, and that, due to the nonhomogenous nature of the disease, diet-related mechanisms appear to vary between different types of cancer.

According to the study's authors, the current findings indicate that not only frequency but diversity of healthy foods are important to wellness. Reducing the frequency of the consumption of non-recommended foods is also important.

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Health Concern

Coronary artery disease

The treatment of atherosclerosis depends on the stage of the disease. Severe disease, in which an artery has significant blockage or unstable plaque deposits, may require intensive care. In most cases, however, less severe disease is treated with a combination of lifestyle changes (including dietary changes) and medication. The following dietary and lifestyle changes have been shown to slow, or even reverse, the effects of atherosclerosis:

  • Reduce dietary saturated fats, cholesterol, and trans-fatty acids.
  • Increase intake of fiber to at least 10 g daily.
  • Consume at least five servings of fruits and vegetables daily.
  • Ensure adequate intake of folic acid (400 to 1000 mcg daily) to reduce homocysteine levels.
  • For obese people, lower weight and increase physical activity to reduce the risk factors for metabolic syndrome and to help control blood pressure and reduce cardiac workload.
  • For people with hypertension, limit sodium intake and maintain adequate intake of potassium, calcium, and magnesium.
  • Stop smoking. This is essential.

The so-called French paradox is the phenomenon of low rates of heart disease in a country known for its high intake of fatty foods. Recent research suggests that one of the reasons French people are protected from heart disease is a high intake of quercetin, a potent antioxidant and polyphenol found in red wine (Kuhlman CR et al 2005). Numerous studies have examined quercetin and found it to be both a powerful antioxidant and a stimulator of nitric oxide, which inhibits endothelial proliferation, a hallmark of atherosclerosis (Kuhlman CR et al 2005). Studies have shown the following:

  • In spontaneously hypertensive rats, quercetin, along with other bioflavonoids, preserved endothelial function by increasing nitric oxide and reducing blood pressure (Machha A et al 2005).
  • A porcine study showed that quercetin has potent antioxidative properties and protects endothelial cells against induced dysfunction (Reiterer G et al 2004).
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