The ideal diet for each population is probably one that includes a variety of fruits and vegetables, nuts, legumes, fish, and whole dairy products. A recent study conducted by researchers from Canada’s Population Health Research Institute (PHRI) found that a diet consisting of higher amounts of these six food groups is associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and death globally.
The study, which collected data from 245 thousand people from 80 countries (including Argentina), used previous observations from the Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology (PURE) study to develop a diet score based on six “protective” components. By awarding one point to intake levels above the median for each component, researchers were able to create a score ranging from 0 to 6.
During a follow-up period of just over 9 years, there were 15,707 deaths and more than 40,764 cardiovascular events. The data analysis revealed that individuals who achieved the maximum score on the recommended intake of protective foods (5 or higher) had a 30% lower risk of death, 14% fewer myocardial infarctions, and 19% fewer strokes compared to those with the minimum score (one point or less). Additionally, there was an 18% lower probability of CVD overall in individuals with higher scores.
These results were confirmed in five independent studies that included almost 97,000 patients with cardiovascular disease from 70 countries, including 4,500 from Argentina. The diverse nature of this study sets it apart from previous research on nutrition and health outcomes, which primarily focused on Western countries.
The PURE Healthy Diet Score recommends an average daily intake of two to three servings of fruit, two to three servings of vegetables, one serving of nuts, two servings of full-fat dairy, three to four servings of legumes per week, and two to three servings of fish per week. The score showed slightly better performance than the Mediterranean diet, the Healthy Eating Index (HEI), and the DASH diet, and substantially better performance than the flexitarian diet.
The inclusion of full-fat dairy is one of the main differences between the PURE score and other dietary patterns. Unlike previous recommendations that emphasized low-fat or skimmed dairy products, the PURE score encourages the consumption of whole dairy. This finding challenges current beliefs and adds strength to the discussion surrounding dairy consumption.
The researchers suggest using the PURE Diet score as a basis for global recommendations and modifying it for each region based on the specific types of food available and affordable. Despite the higher consumption of red meat and chicken in Argentina, the general results of the study remain more important than individual country-specific findings.
Overall, the study highlights the importance of a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, fish, and whole dairy products for reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease and mortality worldwide. By following the recommended intake levels of these protective foods, individuals can improve their overall health and well-being.