Harvard scientists say this is the eating pattern to follow to keep your heart healthy

Variety seems to be a trending theme in the diet world as of late. 

As regimens that allow subscribers to tailor their eating plans around unique objectives and body types (like the flexitarian diet for instance) continue to gain momentum, a new Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health report posits that optimal health is achieved via diverse patterns as opposed to one fixed routine. 

More discreetly, the authors supported the distinct merits associated with The Healthy Eating Index established in 2015 (HEI-2015)m The Alternate Mediterranean Diet Score (AMED);  The Healthful Plant-Based Diet Index (HPDI); and The Alternate Healthy Eating Index (AHEI). 

“Although each healthy eating pattern represents a different combination of dietary constituents, our study indicates that greater adherence to any of the four healthy eating patterns we looked at is associated with low risk of cardiovascular disease and the health benefits persist across racial and ethnic groups,” explained  Zhilei Shan, first author on the paper and a research associate in the Department of Nutrition in ScienceDaily. 

Diverse Eating Patterns and Cardiovascular Disease Risk

The new developments recently published in The JAMA Network are verified by the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

Historically, standards motioned by medical professionals advise against cutting out food groups wholesale in the service of quick weight loss. Carbs and even fat have monumental roles to play in maintaining wellness. It’s all about moderation. 

The four above-stated patterns call for higher intakes of whole grains, vegetables, fruits, legumes, and nuts, and while suggesting people limit their intakes of red and processed meats and sugar-sweetened beverages.

The authors set out to survey the benefits staffed by each pattern in respect to cardiovascular disease risk in particular (CVD)-the leading cause of death in America. 

By analyzing data from the 74,930 women enrolled in the Nurses’ Health Study, the 90,864 women involved in the Nurses’ Health Study II, and the 43,339 men recruited in the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study the Harvard researchers were able to link all of the beneficial dietary correlates linked to heart health. This process took several decades to complete. 

Each participant from each study was asked about their dietary habits every two to four years. 

After reviewing the collective dietary data, the researchers devised four new dietary scores for each participant; the greater the adherence to healthy guidelines the higher the score.

After adjusting for relevant factors, like age, body mass index, and smoking status, the authors determined that greater adherence to any of the healthy eating patterns indexed above was consistently associated with a dramatically lower risk of CVD (between 14% to 21% lower risk) when compared with those who adhered least in the bottom quartile of the analysis. .

“These data provide further evidence to support current dietary guidelines that following healthy eating patterns confer long-term health benefits on cardiovascular disease prevention,” said corresponding author Frank Hu, Fredrick J. Stare Professor of Nutrition and Epidemiology and chair of the Department of Nutrition. “There is no one-size-fits-all diet that is best for everyone. One can combine foods in a variety of flexible ways to achieve healthy eating patterns according to individuals’ health needs, food preferences, and cultural traditions.”

CW Headley is a reporter for the Ladders and can be reached at cheadley@theladders.com