Posted on May 29, 2020, 12 p.m.
A recent observational study examined the links between markers of heart health and 3 types of diets and concluded that plant based diets which are rich in fruits and vegetables are associated with better heart health.
The three types of diets were : a typical Western diet, the DASH diet, and a fruit and vegetable rich diet. The DASH diet was developed by nutritional specialists affiliated with NIH, and on the whole it favors intake of low fat dairy, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans, fish, and poultry over red meats and fatty, sugary, or salty foods.
Findings from this study were published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, and the analysis draws on data from the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension Trial that assessed effects of specially designed diets on blood pressure in comparison to other types of diets.
Data was analyzed from three randomly assigned groups of participants from the DASH trials involving 326 participants that had followed one of the three diets for a period of 8 weeks. Mean age was 54.2 years, and none of the participants had preexisting cardiovascular conditions.
Participants' serum samples were collected after a 12 hours fast before the study started and then again at the end of the 8 week study period. Serum biomarkers that were assessed included: high sensitivity cardiac troponin 1, N-terminal pro-B-type natriuretic peptide, and high sensitivity C-reactive protein.
Troponin helps to regulate contractions of heart muscle, elevated levels can indicate heart damage. Elevated levels of C-reactive protein can indicate inflammation, and elevated levels of pro-B-type natriuretic peptides can be a marker of heart failure.
Those who followed the DASH diet or the fruit/veggies rich diet were found to have had significantly lower concentrations of the biomarkers troponin and pro-B-type natriuretic peptide than those following a typical American diet after assessing both sets of serum samples.
The researchers suggest that their findings indicate better heart health in those two groups, and that the levels of the biomarkers did not differ among those who had followed either of the plant based rich diets. However, levels of C-reactive protein were not affected by any of the three diets.
It is not clear which aspects of the plant based diets may have benefited heart health. The authors write: “Our study suggests that dietary features common to both the DASH and fruit-and-vegetable diets, including but not limited to higher potassium, magnesium, and fiber content, may be causative factors. Further research is needed to confirm whether similar diets can improve cardiac function in adults with established heart failure.”
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