Facts with Hope
FACT: Are you taking heart medicines? A study of more than 31,000 adults found that you can substantially reduce cardiovascular recurrence beyond drug therapy alone by eating a diet rich in vegetables, fruits and fish and low in meats. People who ate a heart-healthy diet reduced their risk of dying from cardiovascular disease by 35 percent, a new heart attack by 14 percent, heart failure by 28 percent and stroke by 19 percent.1
HOPE: Medications can give us a false sense of security. But even if a person takes heart medicines, eating a lot of saturated or trans fats, fast and junk foods, red and processed meats, sweets, and refined and processed foods will still increase inflammation and make cardiovascular disease worse. Don’t neglect the medicine God has provided—a healthy diet!
FACT: A diet high in carotenoid-rich fruits and vegetables may reduce breast cancer risk. Researchers from Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School analyzed data from thousands of women who took part in eight previous studies on carotenoid levels and breast cancer. They found a statistically significant association between higher circulating levels of α-carotene, β-carotene, lutein+zeaxanthin, lycopene, and total carotenoids and reduced breast cancer risk.2
HOPE: You don’t need to take an expensive supplement to get the benefits of carotenoids. These micronutrients are found in fruits and vegetables, such as carrots, spinach, kale, tomatoes, bell peppers, sweet potatoes, butternut squash and pumpkin. Remember those foods your Mom told you to eat because they were good for you? They are!
FACT: Fruit and vegetables improve immune function in older adults. In The Aging and Dietary Intervention Trial, 83 participants aged 65-85 with low fruit and vegetable intake were assigned to continue their normal diets or to consume ≥5 servings of fruits and vegetables daily for 16 weeks. Those with higher fruit and vegetable intake had a better antibody response to the Pneumovax vaccine.3
HOPE: Older bodies’ natural defense systems tend to decrease, which places older people at greater risk of pneumonia. Vaccines can ward off or at least weaken the severity of these viruses. But for even greater immune function, don’t overlook the importance of a healthy diet.
FACT: Eating whole grains is associated with a decreased risk of prediabetes, a blood sugar elevation that can precede diabetes. Researchers examined the 8–10-year incidence of prediabetes in 5,477 participants aged 35 to 56 years old who kept food diaries of how much whole and refined grains they ate. A higher intake of whole grain was associated with a 34% lower risk of developing prediabetes, even after adjustments for age, family history of diabetes, BMI, physical activity, smoking, education, and blood pressure.4
HOPE: The American Diabetes Association estimates that one in four Americans older than 20 have prediabetes. You can lower your risk by making the switch from refined wheat products to eating more steel cut oats, brown rice, whole wheat, popcorn, and other grains in which the entire kernel is consumed.
- Dehghan, M., Mente, A., Teo, K., Gao, P., Sleight, P., Dagenais, G., Avezum, A., et al. (2012). Relationship between healthy diet and risk of cardiovascular disease among patients on drug therapies for secondary prevention: A prospective cohort study of 31,546 high-risk individuals from 40 countries. Circulation 126, 2705-2712. doi:10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.112.103234
- Eliassen, A. H., Hendrickson, S. J., Brinton, L, A., Buring, J. E., Campos, H., Dai, Q., Dorgan, J. F., et al. (2012). Circulating carotenoids and risk of breast cancer: pooled analysis of eight prospective studies. Journal of the National Cancer Institute 104(24), 1905-1916. doi:10.1093/jnci/djs461
- Gibson, A., Edgar, J. D., Neville, C. E., Gilchrist, S., McKinley, M. C., Patterson, C. C., Young, I. S. & Woodside, J. V. (2012). Effect of fruit and vegetable consumption on immune function in older people: A randomized controlled trial. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 96, 1429-1436. doi:10.3945/ajcn.112.039057
- Wirström, T., Hilding, A., Gu, H. F., Östenson, C. & Björklund, A. (2012). Consumption of whole grain reduces risk of deteriorating glucose tolerance, including progression to prediabetes. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, published online December 12, 2012. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.112.045583