Your Diet May Impact Heart More than Weight

Many of us dread going to the doctor because they’ll make us step on the scale. We get a lecture on weight loss or discuss everything we’ve been trying to do to lose the weight. For years, we’ve been told that we have to keep the pounds off for the sake of our health. Of course, we’re trying. But, for many of us, it is an uphill battle.

There is some good news for those of us who seem to always be working toward our goal weight. While we shouldn’t stop striving for a healthier weight, a new study suggests that, at least for heart health, your diet may be more important than weight. Researchers looked at BMI, diet and death rates in more than 79,000 adults for 21 years. The research showed that a person’s diet seemed to be the largest factor in their mortality rate in those 21 years. While a healthy diet didn’t completely erase the risk from being obese, it certainly helped lower it.

These results indicate that adherence to healthy diets such as a Mediterranean-like diet may be a more appropriate focus that avoidance of obesity for the prevention of overall mortality,” the researchers said in a statement. “Nonetheless, a healthy diet may not completely counter higher cardiovascular disease mortality related with obesity.”

They rated the people’s dieted on a scale of zero to eight and considered information like age, activity, smoking and background. In people who were obese, when they were closer to an eight on the diet scale, their death rate from heart disease wasn’t much higher than people within the normal weight range who had the same diet. And, people who had a normal weight but a poor diet were much more likely to die.

There are many health risks associated with being overweight. However, this shows that it might not be the most significant factor in health in some cases. That’s excellent news for those of us who have problems losing weight. While society often “fat-shames” people and treats being over-weight as a personal failing, it’s not. A healthy diet and exercise can help us be healthier, but there’s no guarantee any of us will end up “skinny.” What is achievable is eating a diet with more fruits and vegetables, healthy fats and lean proteins and less processed foods.

The people in the study were all eating something close to the Mediterranean diet. They were in Sweden, where that is just treated as the typical healthy diet. For decades they have stayed away from the American standard of “meat and two vegetables.” Adopting that type of diet can be tricky at first but what’s nice is that it isn’t a crash diet. It isn’t anywhere near as restrictive as a crash diet. You still eat delicious regular food, just less red meat, and sugar and processed carbs. That’s far more manageable and not something that leaves you nutrient deficient. You might long for a chocolate bar more regularly, but your body won’t lack vitamins the way it might when you do a fad diet.

Next time you go to your doctor and the topic of weight comes up, talk about this research. In the course of discussing what your goals should be, focus on your diet rather than the scale, your heart may thank you!
September 23, 2020
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