Study shows lower prevalence of plaque build-up in women, but not men
Women who ate a diet high in fresh fruits and vegetables as young adults were much less likely to have plaque build-up in their arteries 20 years later compared with those who consumed lower amounts of these foods, according to research to be presented at the American College of Cardiology's 63rd Annual Scientific Session. This new finding reinforces the importance of developing healthy eating habits early in life.
Previous studies have found that middle-aged adults whose diet consists of a high proportion of fruits and vegetables are less likely to have a heart attack or stroke, but the relationship between fruit and vegetable consumption during young adulthood and heart disease later in life was less clear. To study this concept, researchers evaluated the association between dietary intake of fruits and vegetables in young adults and the presence of coronary artery calcification (CAC) 20 years later. CAC scores, which were obtained using a CT scan, provide a direct estimate of the amount of plaque in the coronary arteries.
"It's an important question because lifestyle behaviors, such as a heart healthy diet, are the foundation of cardiovascular prevention and we need to know what dietary components are most important," said Michael D. Miedema, M.D., M.P.H., a cardiologist at the Minneapolis Heart Institute, and the lead investigator of the study.
Specifically, women who reported consuming the most fruits and vegetables (eight to nine servings a day for a 2,000-calorie diet) in their 20s were 40 percent less likely to have calcified plaque in their arteries in their 40s compared with those who ate the least amount (three to four servings a day) during the same time period. This association persisted even after researchers accounted for other lifestyle behaviors, as well as for their current-day diets, further demonstrating the role dietary patterns at younger ages may play.
"These findings confirm the concept that plaque development is a lifelong process, and that process can be slowed down with a healthy diet at a young age," Miedema said. "This is often when dietary habits are established, so there is value in knowing how the choices we make in early life have lifelong benefits."
Surprisingly, the same benefit did not hold true for men, which warrants further investigation.
"Several other studies have also suggested that a diet high in fruits and vegetables is less protective in men, but we do not have a good biological reason for this lack of association," Miedema said, adding that the study had less power to evaluate men (62.7 percent were female vs. 37.3 percent male).
The study included 2,508 participants from the ongoing government-sponsored Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) study, which is evaluating how heart disease develops throughout adulthood. CARDIA began in the mid-1980s with a group of men and women 18-30 years of age and has collected extensive data on medical, socioeconomic, psychosocial and behavioral characteristics.
At the start of CARDIA (1985-1986), women and men were asked about their consumption of different fruits and vegetables and the number of servings they had eaten in the past month using a semi-quantitative interview food-frequency questionnaire. Researchers then calculated the average number of servings of fruits and vegetables per day and adjusted them to a 2,000-calorie diet. People were divided into three groups based on self-reported fruit and vegetable intake: high, moderate and low. CAC was measured at year 20 (2005-2006) using electron-beam computed tomography. The average age at baseline and the 20-year follow-up was 25 and 45 years, respectively.
"CAC scoring is currently the best predictor we have for future heart attacks," Miedema said. Calcium build-up in the walls of the coronary arteries is an early sign of heart disease, and the presence of CAC substantially raises an individual's risk for a future heart attack.
In their analysis, researchers controlled for smoking, exercise, consumption of red meat, sugar-sweetened beverages and other dietary and cardiovascular risk factors that correlate with atherosclerosis. Participants with extreme high or low caloric intake/day or those missing CAC scores were excluded from the analysis.
The current findings are in line with the 2011 U.S. Department of Agriculture Dietary Guidelines that advise Americans to fill half of their plates with colorful fruits and vegetables at each meal or snack. Based on these recommendations, adults who consume a 2,000-calorie a day diet should be consuming 2.5 cups of vegetables and two cups of fruit a day – a big jump from what the average American usually gets from their diet, according to government figures.
Fruits and vegetables are packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber, antioxidants and other things that are known to promote good health. Plant-based diets in general have also been linked to greater longevity, less cancer, lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure and healthier body weight.
Miedema emphasized that more studies are needed to further define the relationship between fruits, vegetables and cardiovascular disease in men and women, in addition to determining the best ways to increase compliance with a diet high in fruits and vegetables in the U.S. population.
The ACC's Annual Scientific Session brings together cardiologists and cardiovascular specialists from around the world each year to share the newest discoveries in treatment and prevention. Follow @ACCMediaCenter and #ACC14 for the latest news from the meeting.
The American College of Cardiology is a nonprofit medical society comprised of 43,000 physicians, surgeons, nurses, physician assistants, pharmacists and practice managers. The College is dedicated to transforming cardiovascular care, improving heart health and advancing quality improvement, patient-centered care, payment innovation and professionalism. The ACC also leads the formulation of important cardiovascular health policy, standards and guidelines. It bestows credentials upon cardiovascular specialists, provides professional education, supports and disseminates cardiovascular research, and operates national registries to measure and promote quality care. For more information, visit CardioSource.org.
Beth Casteel | EurekAlert!
Researchers observe major hand hygiene problems in operating rooms
30.03.2015 | University of Gothenburg
Electric vehicle range in 450,000 kilometer real-world test
30.03.2015 | Technische Universität Chemnitz
Spring is here and ectotherms, or animals dependent on external sources to raise their body temperature, are becoming more active. Recent studies have shown...
Glass-fronted office buildings are some of the biggest energy consumers, and regulating their temperature is a big job. Now a façade element developed by Fraunhofer researchers and designers for glass fronts is to reduce energy consumption by harnessing solar thermal energy. A demonstrator version will be on display at Hannover Messe.
In Germany, buildings account for almost 40 percent of all energy usage. Heating, cooling and ventilating homes, offices and public spaces is expensive – and...
Outstanding chemical, thermal and tribological properties predestine silicon carbide for the production of ceramic components of high volume. A novel method now overcomes the procedural and technical limitations of conventional design methods for the production of components with large differences in wall thickness and demanding undercuts.
Extremely hard as diamond, shrinking-free manufacturing, resistance to chemicals, wear and temperatures up to 1300 °C: Silicon carbide (SiSiC) bundles all...
In an experiment at the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, scientists precisely measured the temperature and structure of aluminum as...
The IPH presents a solution at HANNOVER MESSE 2015 to make ship traffic more reliable while decreasing the maintenance costs at the same time. In cooperation with project partners, the research institute from Hannover, Germany, has developed a sensor system which continuously monitors the condition of the marine gearbox, thus preventing breakdowns. Special feature: the monitoring system works wirelessly and energy-autonomously. The required electrical power is generated where it is needed – directly at the sensor.
As well as cars need to be certified regularly (in Germany by the TÜV – Technical Inspection Association), ships need to be inspected – if the powertrain stops...
25.03.2015 | Event News
19.03.2015 | Event News
17.03.2015 | Event News
01.04.2015 | Earth Sciences
01.04.2015 | Information Technology
01.04.2015 | Physics and Astronomy