Field Notes

A Plant-Based Dinner Could Reduce Risk of Heart Disease

People who tend to eat refined carbs and fatty meats for dinner have a higher risk of heart disease than those who eat a similar diet for breakfast, according to a nationwide study published in the Endocrine Society’s Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

CVDs such as congestive heart failure, heart attack, and stroke are the No. 1 cause of death globally, taking an estimated 17.9 million lives each year. Eating plenty of saturated fat, processed meats, and added sugars can raise cholesterol and increase risk of heart disease. Eating a heart-healthy diet with more whole carbohydrates such as vegetables and grains and less meat significantly can offset the risk of CVD.

"Meal timing along with food quality are important factors to consider when looking for ways to lower your risk of heart disease. Our study found that people who eat a plant-based dinner with more whole carbs and unsaturated fats reduced their risk of heart disease by 10%,” says study author Ying Li, PhD, of the Harbin Medical University in Harbin, China. “It’s always recommended to eat a healthful diet, especially for those at high risk of heart disease, but we found that eating meat and refined carbs for breakfast instead of dinner was associated with a lower risk.”

The researchers studied 27,911 US adults’ data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey and analyzed dietary information collected during interviews with the participants over two nonconsecutive days. They examined the association between eating different fats, carbohydrates, and proteins at breakfast or dinner with participants’ rates of heart disease. The analysis found eating a plant-based dinner reduced heart disease risk by 10%.

— Source: Endocrine Society


Study Suggests Dietary Quality Fell During Great Recession

What did Americans eat during the Great Recession? A new study suggests dietary quality plummeted along with the economy.

According to the study, adults overall ate more refined grains and solid fats and children increased their intake of added sugars during the recession. The impacts of the downturn were especially pronounced in food-insecure households, where individuals significantly reduced their intake of protein and dark green vegetables while increasing total sugars.

“Overall, we found that the Great Recession had a negative impact on dietary behaviors in both adults and children,” says lead study author Jacqueline Vernarelli, PhD, director of research education and an associate professor of public health at Sacred Heart University. “This adds to a robust body of evidence that an economic downturn impacts household income, employment status, and subsequent household food security levels.”

Emma Turchick, a graduate student in Vernarelli’s lab at Sacred Heart University, presented the research at NUTRITION 2021 LIVE ONLINE.

Although the study didn't examine impacts from COVID-19, researchers say the findings likely are relevant to today’s economic environment.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in unprecedented increases in food insecurity and a dramatic increased need for emergency food resources and other types of food assistance,” Vernarelli says. “By identifying key intake patterns during the previous recession, we can identify areas that may need intervention now and during the [pandemic] recovery years.”

The study used data from a nationally representative sample of more than 60,000 US adults and children. Researchers analyzed dietary intakes and household food security before (2005–2006), during (2007–2010), and after (2011–2014) the Great Recession.

Household food security is defined as all members of the household having access to enough food for an active, healthful life at all times. Food-insecure households have limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods, or limited or uncertain ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways. People with food insecurity are at greater risk of nutrient insufficiency and chronic diseases.

The study findings suggest that nutritional quality deteriorates as families substitute cheaper foods in place of more healthful options. While overall food quantity may not be lower in many food-insecure households, the quality, desirability, and variety of the diet often is reduced, according to researchers. The study found that children in households with low food security consumed higher levels of solid fats and added sugars during the recession, taking in 200 kcal more per day on average than in the periods before and after the recession.

“Using historical data to understand and anticipate potential nutrient needs and areas of concern may better help public health nutritionists serve communities faced with food insecurity, as well as help inform decisions related to food assistance policy,” Vernarelli says. For example, she says the findings can help inform efforts to improve access to nutritious foods through programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, WIC, and the National School Lunch Program.

— Source: American Society for Nutrition