The Paleo Diet – Did it ever Prevent Hardening of the Arteries?

The “Paleo Diet” is a modern style of eating based on an ancient diet believed to have be eaten during the Paleolithic era — a period of about 2.5 million years which ended around 10,000 years ago with the development of agriculture and grain-based diets.  Proponents of this diet argue that modern human populations eating diets thought to be similar to those of Paleolithic societies are largely free of  “diseases of affluence”, including atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).

The “Paleo Diet” consists mainly of fish, grass-fed pasture raised meats, eggs, vegetables, fruit, fungi, roots and nuts (and excludes grains, legumes/pulses, dairy products, potatoes, refined salt, refined sugar and processed oils).

But is atherosclerosis a disease of modern human beings related to our current diet and lifestyle factors?  Its prevalence in pre-industrial populations from four totally different regions of the world with very different dietary intakes, has now been documented.

The Study

A new study published in the peer-review journal The Lancet (March 10, 2013) has obtained whole body CT scans of 137 mummies from four different geographical regions representing entirely different populations (ancient Egypt, ancient Peru, the Ancestral Puebloans of southwest America, and the Unangan of the Aleutian Islands) spanning more than 4000 years of history.  The ancient Egyptians and Peruvians were farmers, the ancestral Puebloans were forager-farmers, and the Unangans of the Aleutian Islands were hunter-gatherers without agriculture.  None of the cultures was known to be vegetarian and all were believed to be quite physically active.

Diagnosis of Atherosclerosis

For the purpose of the study, a diagnosis of atherosclerosis was made if a calcified plaque was seen in the wall of an artery and probable if calcifications were seen along the expected course of an artery

Findings of the Study

Researchers identified atherosclerosis in more than a third of the mummified specimens, raising the possibility that humans have a natural predisposition to the disease. In total, whole-body CT scans were performed on 137 mummies, including 76 ancient Egyptians, 51 ancient Peruvians, five ancestral Puebloans, and five Unangan hunter-gatherers. Probable or definite atherosclerosis was evident in 34% of the mummies; 29 ancient Egyptians, 13 ancient Peruvians, two ancestral Puebloans and three Unangan mummies.

Significance of these Findings

Atherosclerosis was considerably more common in ancient populations than previously believed.

In a presentation at a recent conference (March 9 – 11, 2013) at the American College of Cardiology 2013 Scientific Sessions in San Francisco, California led by Dr Randall Thompson (University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine) and reported on Medscape Today News, March 16, 2013 the lead researcher of the study said;

our findings greatly increase the number of ancient people known to have atherosclerosis and show for the first time that the disease was common in several ancient cultures with varying lifestyles, diets, and genetics, across a wide geographical distance and over a very long span of human history. These findings suggest that our understanding of the causative factors of atherosclerosis is incomplete and that atherosclerosis could be inherent to the process of human aging.”

Ancient Paleo Diet

According to Dr. Thompson, the diets of these peoples were quite different from each other, as were the climates.  Local plant foods that were indigenous to each population group varied greatly over the wide geographical distance between these regions of the world. Fish and game were present in all of the cultures, but protein sources varied from domesticated cattle among the Egyptians to an almost entirely marine diet among the Unangans.”

Age and Cause of Death

Based on calculations using architectural changes in the bone structures, the average age of death was 43 years old and age was positively correlated  with atherosclerosis. Researchers note that all four populations lived at a time when infections would have been a common cause of death and the high level of chronic infection and inflammation might have promoted the inflammatory aspects of atherosclerosis.  These findings are consistent with the accelerated course of atherosclerosis seen in patients with rheumatoid arthritis and lupus today.

Conclusion

Atherosclerosis is not just a modern phenomenon; it was common in four pre-industrial populations across a wide span of human history, including a pre-agricultural hunter-gather population. The presence of atherosclerosis in pre-modern human beings suggests that the disease is an inherent component of human aging and not associated with any specific diet or lifestyle.

References

Atherosclerosis across 4000 years of human history: the Horus study of four ancient populations, The Lancet, Thompson RC, Allam AH, Lombardi GP et al, Published online March 10, 2013 http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(13)60598-X

Medscape Today News, March 16, 2013

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Health Benefits of Chocolate

While eating unlimited amounts of any calorically-dense food such as chocolate may increase the risk of overweight or obesity, consumption of chocolate, especially dark chocolate has been associated with several health benefits.

What is chocolate?

Chocolate is a food produced from the seed of the tropical theobroma cacao tree.  The seeds of the cacao tree have an intense bitter taste and must be fermented to develop the flavor.  After fermentation the beans are dried then cleaned and roasted and then the shell is removed to produce cacao nibs. The nibs are then ground to cocoa mass; pure chocolate in rough form. Since the cocoa mass is usually liquefied then molded with or without other ingredients, it is called chocolate liquor.

The liquor also may be processed into two components: cocoa solids & cocoa butter.  The cocoa solids are responsible for the brown colour in dark and milk chocolate.  Dark chocolate contains primarily cocoa solids and cocoa butter, in varying proportions.  Milk chocolate combines cocoa solids, cocoa butter or other fat, and sugar as well as milk products such as milk powder or condensed milk.  White chocolate contains cocoa butter, sugar and milk solids but no cocoa solids and therefore really isn’t chocolate at all.

Chocolate as an ancient medicine

Recognition of cocoa’s health properties is nothing new. As far back as the 16th-century Spanish priests were aware of the nutritional properties of the highly prized Mayan cocoa drink and sanctioned its use as a food substitute during periods of fasting.

Chocolate and cardiovascular health

It is well known that certain plant polyphenols, in particular the flavonoids, act to lower the risk of both cardiovascular disease and cancer.  Flavanols are known to be present in red wine, tea and various fruits and berries but dark chocolate also contains large amounts of flavanols and has a cardio-protective role in the diet.

Chocolate and cough suppression

The presence of theobromine in chocolate has been shown to be more effective than codeine when it comes to suppressing a cough.  According to a 2005 study published in the FASEB Journal, researchers induced coughing in 10 healthy volunteers (using capsaicin from chili pepper) and then measured how much capsaicin was needed to induce a cough after subjects had taken theobromine (found in dark chocolate), codeine or a placebo.  In comparison with the placebo, when subjects had taken theobromine they needed around a third more capsaicin to produce a cough, whereas they needed only marginally higher levels of capsaicin after taking codeine.  Theobromine works by suppressing the activity of the vagus nerve which causes coughing.  Best of all, theobromine doesn’t produce any adverse effects on the cardiovascular or central nervous systems. Maria Belvisi, one of the study’s authors commented: “Normally the effectiveness of any treatment is limited by the dosage you can give someone. With theobromine having no demonstrated side effects in this study, it may be possible to give far bigger doses, further increasing its effectiveness”.

Chocolate’s beneficial effect on blood pressure

According to a 2002 study, eating just 30 calories a day of dark chocolate per day can help lower blood pressure without weight gain or other side effects.  This effect has been attributed to dark chocolates high content of cocoa polyphenols,

Researchers found that those who ate 6.3 gm of dark chocolate per day of dark chocolate (about 30 calories and 30 mg of polyphenols) saw their average systolic blood pressure drop by 2.9 mm Hg and diastolic BP by 1.9 mm Hg.  Those diagnosed with hypertension (high blood pressure) had their blood pressure drop by 18% as a result of consuming 6.3 gm of dark chocolate. Furthermore, none of the subjects in the study experienced any changes in body weight, blood lipids (cholesterol) or blood glucose (sugar) levels.

Subjects that ate the same amount of white chocolate (which contains no cocoa and therefore no polyphenols) had no change in their systolic or diastolic blood pressure.  Although the magnitude of the blood pressure reduction was small, the effects are clinically noteworthy.

On a population basis, it has been estimated that a 3-mm Hg reduction in systolic blood pressure would reduce the relative risk of death by stroke by 8 % and of death from coronary artery disease by 5%, and of all-cause death by 4%.

It is proposed by one of the authors of a 2006 study (Dr. Naomi Fisher) that the decrease in arterial stiffness noted in subjects after consuming 100 gm of dark chocolate was due to the effect of the flavonoids in the cocoa acting on an enzyme called nitric oxide synthase; resulting in dilatation of blood vessels,  improve kidney function and lower blood pressure.

Chocolate toxic to pets?

Cocoa solids (found in dark chocolate and milk chocolate) contains alkaloids such astheobromine and phenethylamine which, as noted above have some positive physiological benefits in humans but it is the presence of theobromine which renders it toxic to some animals, including dogs and cats.  Because white chocolate does not contain any cocoa solids, and thus no theobromine, it can be safely eaten by animals.

Other Benefits of Chocolate:

Chocolate also holds benefits apart from protecting your heart:

1. It stimulates endorphin production, which gives a feeling of pleasure.

2. It contains serotonin, which is a neurotransmitter that has an anti-depressant effect

3. It contains small quantities of phenylethylamine, another neurotransmitter that creates feelings of attraction and excitement in the brain’s pleasure centre. (Maybe that’s where chocolate came to have a reputation as an aphrodisiac?)

4. It tastes good!

A little goes a long way

Chocolate is still a high-calorie, high-fat food. Most of the studies done used no more than 100 grams, or about 3.5 ounces, of dark chocolate a day to get the benefits. One bar of dark chocolate has around 400 calories. If you eat half a bar of chocolate a day, you must balance those 200 calories by eating less of something else.

To indulge a chocolate habit without regrets, choose dark varieties containing at least 70 % cocoa solids and check low levels of cocoa butter. Try to make a little go a long way.  Research indicates that you get maximum benefit with fewer ill effects from just one or two squares of dark chocolate per day.

References

Fisher ND, Hollenberg NK. Aging and vascular responses to flavanol-rich cocoa. J Hypertens. 2006 Aug; 24(8):1575-80.

Francene M Steinberg, Monica M Bearden, Carl L Keen, Cocoa and chocolate flavonoids: Implications for cardiovascular health, JADA 2003; 103(2)215-223,

Taubert D, Renate R, Clara L, et al. Effects of Low Habitual Cocoa Intake on Blood Pressure and Bioactive Nitric Oxide., JAMA 2010; 298 (1): 49-60.

Usmani OS, Belvisi MG, Patel HJ et al, The FASEB  Journal 2005 Vol 19, pgs 231-233Theobromine inhibits sensory nerve activation and cough



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New Year’s Resolutions – weight loss and healthy eating

Did you set a New Year’s Resolution to lose weight this year or exercise or eat healthier? How likely are you to be successful in meeting that goal?

THE STUDY

A landmark study from the University of Scranton’s Journal of Clinical Psychology by Norcross et al sheds much light on this subject.

SUBJECTS

Of the 415 study participants in the study, 159 made New Year’s resolutions (were resolvers) and 256 did not make New Year’s resolutions (were non-resolvers). Ages of the subjects ranged from 18 to 85 years, with the average age being 43 years. Most of the participants were white (99%) and ¾ were women. Those that made New Years resolutions and those that didn’t were similar in terms of demographics, problem history and behavioral goals.

NUMBER ONE NEW YEARS RESOLUTIONS – TO LOSE WEIGHT

The number one New Year’s resolution of this study conducted in 2002 was to lose weight and the fifth most important goal was to exercise and eat healthy.

In December 2012, the same researcher that conducted the 2002 Scranton study conducted a Harris poll of 3,036 adults and found that the New Year’s Resolutions that people make were the same as those ten years earlier, with “weight loss” still being first (21%), exercising being second (14%) and eating healthier, fifth (7%).

SUMMARY OF THE STUDY

1. Making change before New Years: The study found that those that started to eat better and exercise before New Years were actually 11 times more likely to be successful than those that started by making a New Year’s resolution.

2. The good news of New Year’s Resolutions: The good news, while limited, is that those that made New Year resolutions succeeded in the very short run; with the success rate being approximately 10x higher than the success rate of those desiring to change their behavior, but not actually making a resolution

3. The harsh reality of New Year’s Resolutions:

a. After only a week into the New Year ½ of those that started the New Year with a resolution to lose weight, eat healthy or get in shape had already given up!

b. By the end of January 83% percent of people that set New Year’s resolution to lose weight, exercise of eat healthier have already given up!!

Only 8% of people are actually successful in achieving their New Year’s resolutions!

SO NOW WHAT?

If your New Year’s resolution isn’t enough to be successful in losing weight and eating healthier, how can you successfully make the dietary changes you desire?

Recent research published in the European Journal of Social Psychology from University College London found that it takes about 66 days (i.e. 2-3 months) to actually create a habit (Lally et al, 2010), so the professional support of a Registered Dietitian during this critical time can make all the difference .

A customized eating plan based on your own lifestyle and food preferences will not only enable you to achieve your weight loss goals gradually over the next few months, but as importantly, keep them off over the long term.

Sources:

Lally, P., van Jaarsveld, C. H. M., Potts, H. W. W. and Wardle, J. (2010), How are habits formed: Modelling habit formation in the real world. Eur. J. Soc. Psychol., 40: 998–1009.

Norcross, JC et al, Auld lang syne: success predictors, change processes, and self-reported outcomes of New Year’s resolvers and nonresolvers. J Clin Psychol. 2002 Apr;58(4):397-405

New Year’s Resolutions for 2013 – Changeology, Dr. John C. Norcross

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Multivitamins in the prevention of cardiovascular disease

Multivitamins are used to prevent vitamin and mineral deficiency; however there is a common belief that taking multivitamins may prevent cardiovascular disease (CVD).  This study published in the November 7, 2012 of the Journal of the American Medical Association demonstrated among this population of US male physicians that taking a daily multivitamin for more than a decade of treatment and follow-up did not reduce major cardiovascular events, including nonfatal myocardial infarction (MI), non-fatal stroke and CVD mortality.

THE STUDY

The Physicians’ Health Study II (PHS II) is a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial investigating several different vitamins including beta-carotene, vitamin E, vitamin C and a daily multivitamin. PHS II launched in 1997 with continued treatment and follow-up through 2011. The other three arms of the study looking at beta-carotene, vitamin E and vitamin C have been previously published. This study on the use of multivitamins, was just released November 7, 2012 and is entitled “Multivitamins in the Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease in Men – The Physicians’ Health Study II Randomized Controlled Trial”

SUBJECTS

A total of 14,641 male US physicians initially aged 50 years or older, including 754 men with a history of CVD at randomization, were enrolled and randomly assigned to either receive a daily multivitamin or a placebo. Of men enrolled in PHS II, 5% had a history of MI or stroke.

THE RESULTS

Over an average follow-up of ~11 years, 1732 CV events occurred, but this rate of CV events was no higher among men taking placebo than those taking a daily multivitamin.

There was no statistically significant difference in rates of MI, all stroke, hemorrhagic stroke, ischemic stroke, congestive heart failure, angina, coronary revascularization, CVD mortality, or overall mortality.

No major differences in negative effects were seen between the group receiving the multivitamin or the placebo

CONCLUSION

There is a concern that people who think they are benefiting from taking a daily multivitamin may be less likely to participate in preventive health behaviors, such as diet and exercise that are both known to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Furthermore, people with heart disease or risk factors may continue to lead unhealthy lives yet take daily vitamins supplements in the hope of reducing their risk of future problems while avoiding making the needed lifestyle changes. This distraction from effective CVD prevention is viewed as the main ‘hazard’ of daily multivitamin supplementation.

The PHS II participants as a whole, exercised regularly, ate reasonably well, and didn’t smoke so the group probably represented, on average, a well-nourished population who already have adequate or optimum intake levels of nutrients, for which supplementation may offer no benefits. Multivitamin supplementation may play a role in nutritionally at-risk populations or those with nutritional deficiencies.

HOW TO KNOW IF YOU ARE GETTING ADEQUATE NUTRIENTS?

The best way to determine if you are getting all the nutrients in the amounts you need for your age and gender is to have your diet assessed by a Registered Dietitian.  BetterByDesign Nutrition has several different packages to meet your needs.  Remember, that visits to a Registered Dietitian are covered by most extended benefit plans.  As well, many companies have Employment Assistance Programs (EAPs) that will cover short term visits to a Registered Dietitian.  Click on the “Assessment Options” to see the various services we offer.

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New Statistics Canada report finds almost a third of Canadian children are overweight or obese

A new Statistics Canada report released on September 20, 2012 finds that almost a third (31.5%) of 5- to 17-year olds were overweight (19.8%) or obese (11.7%) in 2009 to 2011. While the percentage who were overweight was similar across age groups, the prevalence of obesity was almost double in boys overall than girls (15% versus 8%). In children aged 5 to 11 years, boys are more than three times likely to be obese (19.5%) compared to girls of the same ages (6.3 %). Experts say that the new obesity cutoffs of the World Health Organization standards used to measure obesity were not enough to explain these findings.

THE STUDY POPULATION

The study (Obesity in Children and Adolescents: Results from the 2009 to 2011 Canadian Health Measures Study) was based on actual measured heights and weights of 2,123 children and adolescents in Canada aged 5 to 17, between the years 2009 and 2011.

BMI – MEASURE OF OBESITY

The data involved only one measure of overweight, BMI (Body Mass Index) which is the defined as a person’s body mass divided by the square of their height.  Another recent Canadian study referred to in this report demonstrated that over time, waist circumference among Canadians of all ages has increased more than BMI, indicating the need to monitor waist circumference.

BODY FAT & WAIST CIRCUMFERENCE – SIGNIFICANCE

Evidence for adults indicates that changes in the distribution of body fat such as increased waist circumference, are associated with elevated health risk. Weight carried around the abdomen (in so-called “apple” shaped people) is a greater risk than weight distributed overall or in the hips and thighs (as in so-called “pear-shaped” people). Even when the prevalence of BMI doesn’t change, distribution of body fat centered around the waist is associated with increased health risk.

CHILDREN WITH ADULT-ONSET ILLNESSES

Excess weight in childhood is increasingly being linked to what were once thought to be adult-onset illnesses including Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure (hypertension), abnormal blood fats / high cholesterol, hardening of the arteries and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Studies have shown that adolescents who are overweight have a 14 times increased risk of having a heart attack before they turn 50. Children that are obese also have higher levels of depression and low self-esteem and are more likely to be teased or bullied at school.

EFFECT OF “SCREEN TIME” 

The amount of time spent in front of a TV, computer, video game or texting or surfing on smart-phones (so-called “screen-time”) has been found to be strongly correlated with childhood obesity. Children and adolescents that spend two hours or more of screen time per day are twice as likely to be overweight or obese than those who spend an hour or less of screen time.  Studies have also shown that screen time is higher amongst boys than girls, which may be related to higher rates of overweight and obesity found in boys compared with girls.

WHAT DOES THIS STUDY MEAN TO ME?

It would be helpful to encourage children of all ages to participate in regular daily physical activity and decrease their “screen time” to less than 1 hour a day (half the current amount associated with childhood overweight and obesity).

As well, to make sure that children (as well as adults) are within a healthy body weight, its recommended that they have their waist circumference monitored regularly as well as having their Body Mass Index (BMI) calculated and body fat percentage determined.

Our Dietitian is very experienced working with children and can assess your child”s current weight and nutritional status and make recommendations to reduce their risk of acquiring diseases including Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure (hypertension), abnormal blood fats / high cholesterol and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

If you are concerned about weight management in you or your children,  please click on the “Contact Us” tab to find out how to contact us.

 

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Vitamin D status of Canadians – from the Canadian Health Measures Survey

A Statistics Canada Report released in 2010 indicated that while 90% of Canadians 6- to 79-years old have enough Vitamin D in their blood for bone health, 10% (or roughly 3 million people) have concentrations considered to be inadequate and 1.1 million Canadians (or 4% of the population) is actually Vitamin D deficient; levels low enough to cause rickets in children and osteoporosis in adults.  The highest prevalence of deficiency is in men aged 20 to 39, with about 7% considered Vitamin D deficient.

WHAT IS VITAMIN D?

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that is naturally present in very few foods and is added to others (especially dairy products). Vitamin D is also produced in the body when ultraviolet rays from the sun makes contact with exposed skin and triggers vitamin D synthesis.

WHAT DOES VITAMIN D DO?

Vitamin D is essential for bone growth and bone remodeling but without sufficient vitamin D, bones can become thin, brittle, or misshaped. Together with calcium, vitamin D helps protect older adults from osteoporosis and children against rickets. Vitamin D is also known to be associated with a lower risk of breast and colon cancer, some cardiovascular disease and other diseases like multiple sclerosis.

HOW MUCH IS ENOUGH?

Vitamin D is measured in nanomoles per litre (nmol/L).

  • Levels below 27.5 nmol/L is are considered to indicate deficiency.
  • Levels below 37.5 nmol/L are considered inadequate for bone health
  • It is suggested that 75 nmol/L is optimal for overall health.
THE STUDY

“Vitamin D status of Canadians as measured in the 2007 to 2009 Canadian Health Measures Survey” was based on data from the Canadian Health Measures Survey (CHMS) which collected physical measures of health and wellness from a nationally representative sample of Canadians aged 6 to 79 years, including blood and urine samples.

Data

Data are from 5,306 individuals aged 6 to 79 years from all regions of Canada, representing all ages, both genders and all racial backgrounds. Measurement of Vitamin D as 25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D] concentrations were determined from blood tests, and factors known to affect vitamin D status were also assessed.

Findings

Ten percent of Canadians (or roughly 3 million people) have concentrations considered to be inadequate and 1.1 million Canadians (or 4% of the population) is actually vitamin D deficient; levels low enough to cause rickets in children and osteoporosis in adults.  The highest prevalence of deficiency is in men aged 20 to 39; with about 7% considered vitamin D deficient.

An estimated 4% of the population (5% of men and 3% of women) had levels indicating vitamin D deficiency.  The highest prevalence of deficiency (7%) was among men aged 20 to 39 years of age.

The report states that much higher concentrations (> 75 nmol/L) are needed for overall health and disease prevention and according to this report only 1/3 of people in Canada are above this level. 

Frequent milk consumption was related to better vitamin D levels in people of all ages; with those that drank milk more than once a day averaging 75 nmol/L.  Even with drinking milk more than once a day, vitamin D levels were still considered inadequate for overall health and disease prevention.   Those  that drank milk less than once a day had Vitamin D levels of 63 nmol/L

The average difference between people whose racial background was white (Caucasian) and people of other racial backgrounds was approximately 19 nmol/L, with whites having higher levels of Vitamin D.

SOURCES OF VITAMIN D

Vitamin D comes from foods and supplements, and from sun exposure.

Food Sources

There are only small amounts of vitamin D naturally occurring in foods such as oily cold-water fish (85 gm of light canned tuna contains 200 IU) and only a small amount of vitamin D is found in fortified foods such as milk (1 cup of milk contains 100 IU of vitamin D).

Sun Exposure

Vitamin D can be made by the body when the skin is exposed to sunlight. During the spring and summer months in Canada, daily sun exposure (if not wearing sunscreen or clothes that cover much of the body) may produce sufficient amounts of vitamin D, however many people avoid this due to the increased risk of skin cancer.

Even in sunny parts of Canada, Vitamin D production from the sun from late October to early March is insufficient and Vitamin D supplements are recommended.

As well, the skin’s ability to produce vitamin D drops with age, putting people older than 50 years of age, at risk.

Additional factors such as the time of day, amount of cloud cover, smog and the natural colour of one’s skin (melanin content) all affect the amount of vitamin D synthesis available.

VITAMIN D FROM THE SUN versus USE OF VITAMIN D SUPPLEMENTS

In northern climates, such as Canada which is above the 49th parallel, there are insufficient UV rays for 6 months of the year or more for adequate vitamin D synthesis.

The Canadian Cancer Society recommends that adults living in Canada should consider taking Vitamin D supplementation of 1,000 international units (IU) a day during the fall and winter months or year round if they are older (>50 years of age), have dark skin, don’t go outside often or if they do, wear sunscreen or clothing that covers most of their skin.

HOW DO I MAKE SURE TO GET ENOUGH VITAMIN D?

If you are an adult under the age of 50 years of age living in Canada, it is recommended that you supplement your diet with 1000 IU Vitamin D / day, more so if you are living in the Lower Mainland where there is often inadequate sunshine, even in the summer months.

Our Registered Dietitian can assess your diet and make recommendations to ensure you are getting sufficient micro-nutrients (vitamins and minerals), including Vitamin D.

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Canadian study reports that cardiovascular risk is higher among certain ethnic groups

A study published in May 2010 in the Canadian Medical Association Journal and based on data conducted over an 11 year period was the first to compare cardiovascular risk factors and associated heart disease and stroke prevalence across the four major racial-ethnic groups living in the same geographic area, with a similar living environment and similar access to health care.  The report found that Whites (Caucasian), South Asians, Blacks and Chinese had striking differences in cardiovascular risk profiles.

THE STUDY

The study entitled “Comparison of Cardiovascular Risk Profiles Among Ethnic Groups” was based on population health surveys between 1996 and 2007 and was conducted by the Toronto-based Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences.  It compared data from 154,653 Caucasians (Whites), 3,038 Chinese, 3,364 South Asians and 2,742 blacks who participated in Statistics Canada’s cross-sectional national population health survey between 1996 and 2007.

RISK FACTORS

Risk factors for cardiovascular disease include smoking, diabetes, obesity, hypertension (high blood pressure) as well as psychological or social stress.

FAVORABLE DIFFERENCES IN RISK BETWEEN ETHNIC GROUPS

The study reported that Chinese had the most favorable cardiovascular risk factor profile with only 4.3% of the population reporting two or more major cardiovascular risk factors, such as smoking, diabetes, obesity and hypertension (high blood pressure).

South Asians had the next most favorable cardiovascular risk profile (7.9%), followed by Whites (10.1%) and Blacks (11.1%).

PREVALENCE OF RISK FACTORS BY RACE

The study also found that smoking, obesity and stress were significantly more common in Whites, while diabetes and hypertension were much more prevalent among Blacks and South Asians.

WHAT COULD THE STUDY MEAN FOR YOU?

Risk factors such as smoking, diabetes, obesity and hypertension (high blood pressure) are considered to be related to 90% of risk factors for cardiovascular diseases, so being aware of these ethnic differences can help you, your doctor and your dietitian make lifestyle changes specific to your ethnicity, including;

  • diabetes and hypertension lifestyle intervention targeted to high-risk South Asians and Blacks
  • obesity-prevention programs for Black women and White men and women
  • encouraging physical activity among South Asian and Chinese populations

CONSULTING OUR REGISTERED DIETITIAN

If you have any of the risk factors known to be prevalent for your ethnic background, consider consulting with our Registered Dietitian.  She is a food and nutrition expert and is knowledgeable and experienced to help you make the lifestyle changes needed to lower your risk of cardiovascular disease.

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