G Riccardi et al, 2021. Dietary recommendations for prevention of atherosclerosis, Cardiovascular Research published online.Print this page
This review aims at summarizing updated evidence on cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk associated with consumption of specific food items to substantiate dietary strategies for atherosclerosis prevention. A systematic search on PubMed was performed to identify meta-analyses of cohort studies and RCTs with CVD outcomes. The evidence is highly concordant in showing that, for the healthy adult population, low consumption of salt and foods of animal origin, and increased intake of plant-based foods-whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, and nuts-are linked with reduced atherosclerosis risk. The same applies for the replacement of butter and other animal/tropical fats with olive oil and other unsaturated-fat-rich oil. Although the literature reviewed overall endorses scientific society dietary recommendations, some relevant novelties emerge. With regard to meat, new evidence differentiates processed and red meat-both associated with increased CVD risk-from poultry, showing a neutral relationship with CVD for moderate intakes. Moreover, the preferential use of low-fat dairies in the healthy population is not supported by recent data, since both full-fat and low-fat dairies, in moderate amounts and in the context of a balanced diet, are not associated with increased CVD risk; furthermore, small quantities of cheese and regular yogurt consumption are even linked with a protective effect. Among other animal protein sources, moderate fish consumption is also supported by the latest evidence, although there might be sustainability concerns. New data endorse the replacement of most high glycemic index (GI) foods with both whole grain and low GI cereal foods. As for beverages, low consumption not only of alcohol, but also of coffee and tea is associated with a reduced atherosclerosis risk while soft drinks show a direct relationship with CVD risk. This review provides evidence-based support for promoting appropriate food choices for atherosclerosis prevention in the general population.
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