In Conversation: What makes a diet truly heart-healthy?

Two nutrition studies recently made the headlines when they sounded alarm bells regarding the impact of dietary choices on heart health. What are the “ingredients” of a truly heart-healthy diet, and which foods should we avoid and why if we want to lower our risk of cardiovascular disease? This podcast episode finds answers to these and other questions related to heart-healthy dietary choices.

In April 2024, two nutrition studies made the headlines as they emphasized the critical impact of diet on cardiovascular health.

The first study, which appeared in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition on April 8, was conducted by researchers from the Singapore Institute of Food and Biotechnology Innovation, and the Agency for Science, Technology and Research in Singapore.

It involved 89 adults that were at risk for type 2 diabetes, and it made a finding that might, at first, sound surprising, namely: That eating plant-based meat substitutes offered no significant benefits to heart health over actual animal meat.

The second study — whose results were presented at the American College of Cardiology’s Annual Scientific Session at the beginning of April, 2024 — was led by experts from Piedmont Athens Regional Hospital in Athens, GA.

It analyzed data from 3,170 participants in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES)Trusted Source in the United States, all of whom were adults with cardiovascular disease.

This study found that 89% of these consumed more than double the “ideal” allowance recommended by the American Heart Association, of 1,500 milligrams (mg)Trusted Source of sodium (salt) per day.

But why are certain foods, regardless of whether or not they are plant-based, so bad for the heart? How does salt impact the cardiovascular system? And what makes a diet truly heart-healthy?

In this episode of In Conversation, we discuss these questions and heart-healthy diet tips in conversation with our special guest, Prof. Oyinlola Oyebode, PhD, professor of public health at Queen Mary, University of London, in the United Kingdom.

Oyebode specializes in behavioral risk factors for noncommunicable disease, particularly diet, as well as issues affecting the health of marginalized populations.

Listen to our podcast episode in full below or on your preferred streaming platform.

In Conversation: Is intermittent fasting actually bad for your heart?

The proponents of intermittent fasting often cite benefits such as weight loss, improved blood sugar, and reduced cholesterol. And there is some scientific evidence to support these claims — at least in the short term. But what about intermittent fasting’s effects in the long run? And could it actually do more harm than good for the human heart?

Intermittent fasting is a rather contentious topic when it comes to health and well-being. While there are studies that point to its short-term benefits such as reduced cholesterol when people eat within a 10-12 hour window, or an improved gut microbiome in people with obesity, there is some conflicting evidenceTrusted Source on its benefits for weight loss.

Some studies have also shown that intermittent fasting can help lower certain heart disease risk factorsTrusted Source, such as reduced cholesterol and blood pressure. However, a recent poster presented at EPI Lifestyle Scientific Sessions 2024 in Chicago suggested that eating within an 8-hour time window may increase the risk of cardiovascular death by as much as 91%.

Considering that time-restricted eating is a relatively new area of research, experts agree that there is a lack of long-term studies on the effects eating practices such as intermittent fasting have on the body, in particular the cardiovascular system.

In light of of these recent controversial findings, Feature Editor Maria Cohut and I sat down to discuss all things intermittent fasting in the latest instalment of our In Conversation podcast.

Joining us was Ali Javaheri, MD, PhD, assistant professor of medicine from the Center For Cardiovascular Research at Washington University, who helped us answer questions, such as: “How does intermittent fasting affect the body?”, “Is it safe for everyone?”, and “What should we keep in mind if we decide to practice it?”

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