8 weeks on fruit- and vegetable-rich diets tied to better heart health


8 weeks on fruit- and vegetable-rich diets tied to better heart health


A study has examined the links between heart health and three types of diet: the DASH diet, a different fruit and vegetable rich diet, and a typical Western diet. They came to the conclusion that diets containing a lot of fruit and vegetables are associated with better heart health.

The findings were published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, and further add to evidence that fruit and vegetable rich diets may be important in maintaining good cardiovascular health.

Data was drawn from the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) trial, in which the effects of a specially designed diet on blood pressure were examined, in comparison with other types of diet.

The DASH diet was developed by nutritionists affiliated with the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Overall, the diet encourages the intake of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, poultry, fish, nuts, and beans, while discouraging the intake of red meats and fatty, sugary, or salty foods.


Studying the effects of diet on heart health


During the current research, the team compared the effects of three different types of diet on markers of heart health. The diets used were the DASH diet, a different diet rich in fruits and vegetables, and “a typical American diet”.

The American diet reflected diets reported by the average U.S. adult. The diet rich in fruit and vegetables was quite similar, but contained more natural fibre, and fewer snacks and sweets.

Data was examined from three randomly assigned groups of participants from the DASH trials. There was a total of 326 participants, and each had followed one of the three diets for a period of 8 weeks.

The mean age of the participants was 45.2 years, and none had pre-existing cardiovascular conditions.

Three biomarkers of heart health were exampled by collecting and analysing samples of serum from the participants.

Two serum samples were collected – first, after a 12-hour fast prior to beginning their assigned diet, and again at the end of the 8-week study period.



Fruit and vegetable intake may be key


The serum biomarkers assessed by the research were: high-sensitivity cardiac troponin I, N-terminal pro-B-type natriuretic peptide, and high-sensitivity C-reactive protein.

Troponin helps to regulate the contractions of the heart muscle, with overly high levels of the protein indicating damage to the heart. High levels of C-reactive protein may indicate inflammation, while very high levels of pro-B-type natriuretic peptide are a sign of heart failure.

The team discovered that people who had followed either the DASH diet or other fruit and vegetable rich diet had significantly lower concentrations of troponin and pro-B-type natriuretic peptide than the group who had followed the typical American diet.

The researchers suggest that this is an indicator of better heart health in those two groups – levels of the two biomarkers did not differ among the groups who had followed either of the plant-rich diets.

C-reactive protein levels were not affected by any of the three diets.

The authors came to the following conclusion:

“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.”

They do caution, however, that “Further research is needed to confirm whether similar diets can improve cardiac function in adults with established heart failure.”


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