Page last updated at 00:16 GMT, Tuesday, 21 October 2008 01:16 UK

Western diet 'raises heart risk'

healthy food
"Prudent" eaters consume more fruit and veg

Swapping fried and salty foods for fruit and veg could cut the global incidence of heart attacks by a third, a study of eating habits suggests.

Researchers analysed the diet of 16,000 people in 52 countries and identified three global eating patterns, Circulation journal reports.

The typical Western diet, high in fat, salt and meat, accounted for about 30% of heart attack risk in any population.

A "prudent" diet high in fruit and veg lowered heart risk by a third.

30% of the risk of heart disease in a population could be related to poor diet
Lead author Romania Iqbal

An Oriental diet, high in tofu, soy and other sauces, made no difference to heart attack risk. The researchers created a dietary risk score questionnaire based on 19 food groups and then asked 5,561 heart attack patients and 10,646 people with known heart disease to fill out their survey.

People who ate a Western diet had a 35% greater risk of having a heart attack than those who ate little or no fried foods and meat.

The typical Western diet has been widely linked to heart disease. High salt in the diet can raise blood pressure and the wrong type of fat can clog blood vessels.

Investigating overall eating patterns is more true to life than looking at intake of individual foods or nutrients.

Global trend

The researchers said their work suggested that the same relationships between food and heart disease that are observed in Western countries exist in other regions of the world.

Lead author Romania Iqbal, of McMaster University in Canada, said: "30% of the risk of heart disease in a population could be related to poor diet."

The researchers said that while components of the Oriental diet might be bad for the heart - such as the salt in soy sauce - these elements were likely cancelled out by protective components.

Ellen Mason, a cardiac nurse for the British Heart Foundation, said: "This study shows that it doesn’t matter whether you live in Bolton or Bombay, or whether you like to eat British, African Caribbean or Asian foods.

"The vital thing is to reduce your intake of salty, fried, fatty food to a minimum but increase the amount of fruit and vegetables you eat."

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