Health: Fruit, veg and NO snacking on crisps key to warding off cancer and heart disease

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Having a fruit-based lunch, vegetables for dinner and not snacking on starchy foods like crisps is the key to warding off cancer and heart disease, a study has claimed.

Researchers from China‘s Harbin Medical University looked for associations between dietary habits and health among more than 21,500 US adults. 

They found that eating starchy snacks between meals increased the risk of death by 50 per cent and death from cardiovascular disease by 44-57 per cent.

However, the consumption of fruit, vegetables and dairy products at specific meals was found to help lower the risk of premature death from various conditions.

Having a fruit-based lunch, vegetables for dinner (like the platter pictured) and not snacking on starchy foods like crisps in the key to warding off cancer and heart disease, a study found

Having a fruit-based lunch, vegetables for dinner (like the platter pictured) and not snacking on starchy foods like crisps in the key to warding off cancer and heart disease, a study found

The team found that eating starchy snacks (like crisps, pictured) between meals increased the risk of early death by 50 per cent and death from cardiovascular disease by 44-57 per cent

The team found that eating starchy snacks (like crisps, pictured) between meals increased the risk of early death by 50 per cent and death from cardiovascular disease by 44-57 per cent

The study was undertaken by nutritionist Ying Li and colleagues from the Harbin Medical University in China’s northernmost province of Heilongjiang. 

‘People are increasingly concerned about what they eat as well as when they eat,’ Professor Li said.

‘Our team sought to better understand the effects different foods have when consumed at certain meals.’ 

To do this, the team analysed the diets of 21,503 US adults aged 30+ who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 2003–14. 

They cross-referenced this data with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s national death index, noting any subjects who died in the period up to December 31, 2015 of any cause — including cancer or cardiovascular disease.

Each subject’s dietary patterns were categorised based on the food they ate at mealtimes and for between-meal snacks. For example, morning meals were divided into fruit, Western and starchy breakfast options.

Midday meals were split into fruit, vegetable and Western lunches, evening meals were divided up into fruit, vegetables and western dinners, while snacks were classified as grain-based, starchy, fruit or dairy in nature.

Western breakfasts were characterised by refined grain, legumes, added sugars, solid fats, and red meat, while Western lunches had refined grains, cheeses and cured meats and Western dinners refined grain, cheese, solid fats, sugars and eggs.

The researchers noted that the Western dietary pattern also tended to feature higher proportions of fat and protein.

In addition, there were some subjects whose diets did not easily fit into these specific meal patterns, and so were analysed separately as a reference group. 

Each subject's dietary patterns were categorised based on the food they ate at mealtimes and for between-meal snacks. For example, morning meals were divided into fruit (such as grapefruit, pictured), Western (efined grain, legumes, added sugars, solid fats, and red meat) and starchy breakfast options

Each subject’s dietary patterns were categorised based on the food they ate at mealtimes and for between-meal snacks. For example, morning meals were divided into fruit (such as grapefruit, pictured), Western (efined grain, legumes, added sugars, solid fats, and red meat) and starchy breakfast options

The researchers found that eating a fruit-based lunch was associated with a 34 per cent reduction in the risk of death from cardiovascular disease.

In contrast, a Western lunch — one typically containing refined grains, cheeses and cured meats — was linked to a 44 per cent increase cardiovascular-related mortality. 

Moving on to dinner, the team found that evening meals rich in vegetables appear linked to a 23 per cent lower risk of dying from cardiovascular disease and a 31 per cent small change of death from any other condition.

Starchy snacks like crisps, meanwhile, were found to be associated with a significantly increase in the risk of both all-cause and cardiovascular disease-related mortality — at 50–52 and 44–57 per cent, respectively.

The consumption of fruit, vegetables and dairy products at specific meals was found to help lower the risk of premature death from various conditions. Pictured: the American Heart Association recommends eating a diet rich in various fruits and vegetables

The consumption of fruit, vegetables and dairy products at specific meals was found to help lower the risk of premature death from various conditions. Pictured: the American Heart Association recommends eating a diet rich in various fruits and vegetables

‘Our results revealed that the amount and the intake time of various types of foods are equally critical for maintaining optimal health,’ said Professor Li. 

‘Future nutrition guidelines and interventional strategies could integrate optimal consumption times for foods across the day.’

The team cautioned that their findings were based on dietary information that was self-reported by the study subjects and could therefore be affected by recall bias.

The full findings of the study were published in the Journal of the American Heart Association

VEGETARIAN DIETS REALLY DO LOWER YOUR CHOLESTEROL

Plant-based diets really do lower cholesterol, according to a review of nearly 50 studies.

Vegetarians generally eat more greens, fruits and nuts which means they have a lower intake of saturated fat, researchers found.

These foods are naturally rich in components such as soluble fibre, soy protein, and plant sterols (a cholesterol found in plants), all of which lower cholesterol. 

The research, led by Dr Yoko Yokoyama, from Keio University in Fujisawa, found vegetarians had 29.2 milligrams less of total cholesterol per decilitre (one tenth of a litre) than meat-eaters. 

Vegetarian diets lower cholesterol as they result in lower intake of saturated fat, increased intake of plant foods such as vegetables, fruits and nuts (stock image)

Vegetarian diets lower cholesterol as they result in lower intake of saturated fat, increased intake of plant foods such as vegetables, fruits and nuts (stock image)

For the review, researchers took ‘vegetarian diets’ to mean a diet that includes eating meat products less than once every month. 

For meat-eaters following a vegetarian diet could lower cholesterol by 12.5 milligrams per decilitre.  

‘Those [individuals] who have followed vegetarian dietary patterns for longer periods may have healthier body compositions as well as better adherence to a vegetarian diet, both of which may have an effect on blood lipids’, researchers wrote in the paper published in the journal Nutrition Reviews.

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