Whole-fat dairy, nuts, and fish may help lower premature death risk

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A recently published study in the European Heart Journal has found that diets rich in fruit, vegetables, dairy (mainly whole-fat), nuts, legumes, and fish are linked to a lower risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and premature death worldwide.

The addition of unprocessed red meat or whole grains did not have a significant impact on these outcomes.

The study, led by Dr. Andrew Mente of the Population Health Research Institute at McMaster University, challenges long-held beliefs about low-fat foods, suggesting that the priority should be on increasing intake of “protective foods” such as nuts, fish, and dairy.

The research showed that up to two servings per day of dairy, especially whole-fat dairy, could be included in a healthy diet, debunking previous advice to limit dairy consumption.

The PURE Diet

The study examined the relationships between a newly created diet score and health outcomes in a global population.

The PURE diet, as it was termed, included daily servings of fruits, vegetables, weekly servings of legumes, nuts, fish, and 14 servings of dairy products per week.

Participants who scored above the median intake for each of these food groups achieved a maximum diet score of six.

The PURE study included 147,642 people from various countries and diverse income levels. The results were adjusted for factors like age, sex, physical activity, smoking status, and others.

The healthiest diets, those with a score of five or more, were linked with a 30% lower risk of death, 18% lower likelihood of CVD, 14% lower risk of myocardial infarction, and a 19% lower risk of stroke.

These findings were confirmed in five independent studies, including a total of 96,955 patients with CVD in 70 countries.

The study, the most diverse of its kind, found associations between the PURE diet and health outcomes in healthy people, patients with CVD, and patients with diabetes across various economies.

Notably, the correlations were strongest in areas with poor-quality diets dominated by refined carbohydrates, challenging current beliefs about overnutrition and undernutrition.

The Call for Change

In response to the study, Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian from the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University urged a re-evaluation of guidelines advising against whole-fat dairy products.

He stated, “It is time for national nutrition guidelines, private sector innovations, government tax policy and agricultural incentives, food procurement policies, labeling, and other regulatory priorities, and food-based healthcare interventions to catch up to the science. Millions of lives depend on it.”

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The study was published in European Heart Journal.