When dietary guidelines were issued by the US and UK governments in 1977 and 1983, they were badly supported by evidence, so says a recent publication in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. Guidelines called for total fat and saturated fat to contribute no more than 30% and 10%, respectively, to a person’s total energy intake. According to study authors, while authorities acknowledged at the time that the link between fat consumption and heart problems was unsupported, guidelines were released on the grounds that “it couldn’t hurt.” Study authors draw parallels between the introduction of the fat guidelines and the beginning of the rise in rates of obesity and diabetes. They posit that lowering fat consumption may have been instrumental in the skyrocketing incidence and prevalence rates for diabesity.
Above pun intended, a recent Jama study shows that legislation to reduce trans-fats in foods has a direct and almost immediate beneficial effect on cardiovascular health. The study looked into a 2007 trans-fat ban that was enacted in nine New York counties, translating to trans-fat elimination in bakeries, restaurants, and other public food spots. Just three years after the ban took effect, New Yorkers living in these areas experienced a 6.2% reduction in heart attack and stroke hospitalization, compared to those in eight counties with no trans-fat restrictions in place. Great news for heart health! Here’s your trans-fat education, including a list of common foods to avoid. Your ticker will thank you.
One of the most widely prescribed types of drugs on earth may be a Catch-22. Statins, a group of drugs used to lower cholesterol, are now shown to decrease the benefits of exercise (like um, improving cardiovascular health). Not only that, but they may make getting off the couch and to the gym harder than it already is. Insult to injury, anyone? Researchers at the University of Illinois found that while cholesterol levels improved in statin-injected mice, these mice exhibited more muscle weakness, more pain, and diminished exercise levels compared to the control group. And while the control group showed improved muscle fitness post-exercise, the statin mice showed little to none. One step forward and how many steps back? Until we figure it out, here’s a Harvard Health Publications strategy for lowering cholesterol with foods.