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What the Western diet can do for your heart

October 21, 2008 |  1:30 pm


Way to go, Westerners! Our typical diet -- all by its lonesome -- accounts for almost a third of the world's heart attack risk.

Researchers at McMaster University in Canada analyzed data on heart attack risk factors from 52 countries. They then identified three main types of diets:

Western -- high in fried foods, salty snacks, eggs and meat.

Oriental -- high in tofu, plus soy and other sauces.

Prudent -- sounds dull, but essentially: high in fruits and vegetables.

The results, published online ahead of print in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Assn., found that people who ate a Western diet had a 35% higher risk of a heart attack than did those who ate very few fried foods or meat. And people who followed a Prudent (they really need a better name for this) diet had a 30% lower risk of a heart attack than did those who ate very few fruits and vegetables.

As for that Oriental diet, it didn't seem to affect heart attack risk much. Some parts of it appear to be beneficial, the researchers said, but the high sodium content (check out the label on a soy sauce bottle sometime) meant that overall it was kind of a wash.

Said the researchers: "An unhealthy dietary intake, assessed by a simple dietary risk score, increases the risk of AMI [acute myocardial infarction] globally and accounts for almost 30% of the population-attributable risk."

In other words, we should eat better.

-- Tami Dennis

Photo: Attention Westerners: Frying is not the only way to prepare food. 

Credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times