Expert Reaction to Newly Published Report on Diet
A report published earlier this week by the UK’s National Obesity Forum and the newly-formed ‘Public Health Collaboration’ suggests people should eat more fat, cut out carbohydrates and ignore calories. These recommendations conflict with current health and nutrition recommendations from around the world and have attracted considerable criticism from experts in the field of obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
In response to this report, Claire Kerins, lead Specialist Cardiac Dietician with Croí and the National Institute for Preventive Cardiology, encourages the public to be cautious when interpreting these recommendations. Ms Kerins explains “This report is mostly based on ideas and opinions, and not based on good science or research. The recommendations from this report are simply irresponsible and misleading for the general public”. She went on to say “If we were to follow the recommendations in this report, such as increasing our saturated fat intake from foods such as cheese and butter, the outcomes would be an increase in cholesterol levels, blood pressure and weight”.
According to Croí and the National Institute for Preventive Cardiology, cardiovascular disease remains the leading cause of death in Ireland, with approximately 10,000 people dying each year. It is estimated that by 2020 the incidence of cardiovascular disease in Ireland will rise by 20-30%. It is important to note that up to 90% of cardiovascular disease is attributable to modifiable risk factors such as cholesterol, blood pressure and weight (things we can do something about). When we examine the risk factors that contribute to cardiovascular disease, we can see that diet explains more than 50% of cardiovascular events.
Ms Kerins explains “The report is not robust and is not based on a comprehensive review of the evidence – it is fundamentally based on ideas and opinions. The authors, who are not named, have simply ‘cherry-picked’ research findings to support their claims and this is not good practice or good science”. She also added “The public need to be encouraged to follow a Mediterranean style diet, which has a solid evidence base, known to reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke and other chronic diseases”.
The key elements of the Mediterranean diet include:
- More healthy fats such as olive oil or rapeseed oil
- Less ‘bad fats’ found in red-meat, butter and full fat dairy
- More oily fish such as mackerel, salmon, sardine, trout
- Generous amounts of fruits and vegetables every day
- Herbs and spices to replace salt
- More wholegrain foods in the diet
- Small portions of nuts and seeds
- Alcohol in moderation
All the elements of the Mediterranean diet act synergistically to protect the body from cardiovascular disease. Speaking about the Mediterranean Diet, Ms Kerins, reports “There is a strong body of evidence demonstrating that a Mediterranean style diet is associated with a lower rate of
cardiovascular disease. The health benefits associated with the Mediterranean diet are due to the synergistic effects among foods and nutrients in the Mediterranean diet, rather than an effect of only one nutrient, food or food group. The diet is effective in reducing cardiovascular risk by having a positive effect on different cardiovascular risk factors such as blood pressure, cholesterol levels, glucose levels, and inflammatory markers”.
Based on the current body of evidence, it would be potentially dangerous to think you can eat as much saturated fat as you want without it having an effect on your cardiovascular health, in particular your cholesterol, blood pressure and weight. With so much attention being placed on the role of fats in our diet it is crucial to highlight that dietary advice on preventing and managing cardiovascular disease does not begin and end with fats. We also need to be mindful of our diet as a whole and the balance of foods within it Cardiac Specialist Dieticians with Croí and the National Institute for Preventive Cardiology continue to encourage a nutritionally balanced and varied Mediterranean-style diet for optimum cardiovascular health.
For further information on diet and lifestyle advice, please visit www.croi.ie or call 091-544310.