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Nutritional value more important than calorie count for heart health, study says

Mounting evidence suggests the quality of your diet is more important than how many calories it contains. – AFP/Relaxnews pic, August 29, 2015.Mounting evidence suggests the quality of your diet is more important than how many calories it contains. – AFP/Relaxnews pic, August 29, 2015.It's time to kick the habit of counting calories and look at the overall nutritional value of foods to promote better heart health and curb obesity, say experts.

Simple dietary adjustments such as boosting omega-3 fatty acid, olive oil and nut intake have all been associated with significant, positive changes to heart health in a short time, say the researchers in an editorial in the journal Open Heart.

Despite mounting scientific evidence of this being the case, clinicians have followed the rallying cry of the food and weight loss industries and call for counting calories, according to the editorial by Drs Aseem Malhotra and James DiNicolantonio and Professor Simon Capewell.

Drinking one sugary beverage per day – which usually contains about 150 calories – is associated with significant risk for type 2 diabetes.

Eating a handful of nuts – 30g of walnuts, 15g of almonds or 15g of hazelnuts – is associated with a significant reduced risk of cardiovascular events.

What's more, consuming four tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil has the same association, although the 500 calories of such a portion makes some counters bilk.

Citing a trial called Action for Health in Diabetes, which shows that cutting calories and increasing exercise is not associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular events despite significant weight loss over 13.5 years, the experts point to food quality as the culprit.

"Shifting the focus away from calories and emphasising a dietary pattern that focuses on food quality rather than quantity will help to rapidly reduce obesity, related diseases, and cardiovascular risk," they write.

It's plain to see that a bad diet is what's at the root of cardiovascular events, leading to more disease and death than a sedentary lifestyle, smoking and alcohol put together, say the researchers.

Governments should consider a tax on sugary drinks in addition to subsidies for fruit, vegetables and nuts that would make a quality diet more affordable.

A lesson to be learned from the evidence is that "Food can be the most powerful form of medicine or the slowest form of poison," reads the editorial.

In conclusion, they recommend a high fat Mediterranean diet and lifestyle to anyone looking to improve their approach to eating. – AFP/Relaxnews, August 29, 2015.

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