Diet has been shown to play a role in regulating inflammation, which is linked to many chronic illnesses, including heart disease.
In a recent study at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, researchers found that people with heart failure who eat a diet high in foods that cause inflammation are twice as likely to end up in the hospital or die as those who eat foods known to reduce inflammation.
These foods include red meat, refined grains, and high-fat dairy products, while foods such as olive oil, whole grains, and fruits and vegetables have been shown to lower inflammation.
The researchers suggest that if people with heart failure can reduce the amount of pro-inflammatory foods that they eat, it might help with their survival.
The study was presented at the American Heart Association’s virtual Scientific Sessions. One author is JungHee Kang.
In the study, the team asked 213 heart failure patients to keep diaries of what they ate for four days.
They then categorized the diets using an index that scores foods based on whether they increase or decrease inflammation.
After following participants for a year, they found those whose diets had higher inflammatory scores were more than twice as likely to die or be hospitalized compared to those whose diets had lower inflammatory scores.
The study is important because it looked specifically at heart failure outcomes, whereas previous diet studies focused more on heart attacks and strokes.
According to AHA, about 6.2 million U.S. adults have heart failure, which occurs when the heart doesn’t pump enough blood and oxygen to support the other organs in the body.
Many diets that are considered heart-healthy have more in common than they do differences.
For example, the Mediterranean diet, which describes an eating pattern common in countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea, includes olive oil as a primary fat source, a lot of fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, nuts and seeds, and low amounts of dairy products, eggs, fish and poultry.
The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet, meanwhile, was designed to help lower blood pressure.
It also includes a lot of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains and limits foods high in saturated fats. But the DASH diet allows more protein from low-fat dairy, meat, and poultry.
The guidelines recommend plant-based and Mediterranean eating patterns while limiting processed meats, refined carbohydrates, cholesterol, sodium, and sweetened drinks.