May 2017

How Your Eating Habits Affect Your Health

Young woman in grocery store looking at apples.

A healthy eating plan lowers your risk for heart disease and other health conditions.
m-imagephotography/iStock/Thinkstock

A new study shows how the things you eat can influence your risk of dying from heart disease, stroke, or type 2 diabetes. The findings suggest ways to change your eating habits to improve your health.

Experts already know that a healthy eating plan includes vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat dairy products. A healthy diet also includes lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, and nuts. It limits saturated and trans fats, sodium, and added sugars.

NIH-funded scientists analyzed how these 10 dietary factors affect your risk of death from heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. These are known as cardiometabolic diseases. The team relied on data from the CDC’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) and national mortality data.

The scientists found that risk of death from the 3 diseases was higher for those who consumed too much sodium, processed meat, sugar-sweetened beverages, and unprocessed red meat. Risk of death was also higher among those who didn’t eat enough nuts and seeds, seafood omega-3 fats, vegetables, fruits, whole grains, or polyunsaturated fats. According to the analysis, nearly half (45%) of deaths in 2012 from the 3 diseases was associated with too much or too little of these 10 dietary factors.

“This study establishes the number of cardiometabolic deaths that can be linked to Americans’ eating habits, and the number is large,” explains Dr. David Goff, a heart disease and public health expert at NIH. “Second, it shows how recent reductions in those deaths relate to improvements in diet, and this relationship is strong. There is much work to be done in preventing heart disease, but we also know that better dietary habits can improve our health quickly, and we can act on that knowledge by making and building on small changes that add up over time.” 

 

References: Association Between Dietary Factors and Mortality From Heart Disease, Stroke, and Type 2 Diabetes in the United States. Micha R, Peñalvo JL, Cudhea F, Imamura F, Rehm CD, Mozaffarian D. JAMA. 2017 Mar 7;317(9):912-924. doi: 10.1001/jama.2017.0947. PMID: 28267855.

Funding: NIH’s National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) and Bunge Fellowship in Global Nutrition.