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people preparing a vegetable and nut saladRegular readers of this blog know a bit about the relationship between gum health and heart health. And like other inflammatory conditions, both are affected by what you eat. But does sticking to one diet or another better when it comes to cardiovascular disease (CVD) in particular? 

A new study in JAMA Internal Medicine aimed to find out, evaluating data from over 200,000 participants, mostly women. None had CVD, diabetes, or cancer at the outset.

Every two to four years, participants reported their health information, including things like weight, physical activity, smoking status, and multivitamin use. They were also given regular food frequency questionnaires so the researchers could analyze how well – or poorly – people stuck with various dietary patterns. 

After adjusting for factors such as age, BMI, and smoking status, the authors found that those who stuck most closely to healthy eating patterns had a 14 to 21% lower risk of CVD compared to those who routinely strayed. 

It didn’t matter which healthy eating pattern participants followed – patterns gauged with the Healthy Eating Index–2015, Alternate Mediterranean Diet Score, Healthful Plant-Based Diet Index, and Alternate Healthy Eating Index. What mattered was stick-to-itveness. As corresponding author Dr. Frank Hu put it in a Harvard news release

There is no one-size-fits-all diet that is best for everyone. One can combine foods in a variety of flexible ways to achieve healthy eating patterns according to individuals’ health needs, food preferences, and cultural traditions.

As with any study, this one did have its limitations, such as the lack of diversity among its participants (most were white health professionals) and the emphasis on dietary patterns guided largely by the current Dietary Guidelines for Americans – guidelines that have been widely criticized due to the influence of food manufacturers and other special interest groups. 

We know: Big surprise, right? 

woman eating healthy mealThe concept of “healthy eating” shouldn’t be driven by politics but the understanding that our bodies thrive when given the food they were designed to eat – not products but real food, whole food. 

No, there is no single diet that’s right for everyone – perhaps the most important takeaway from this new study. While every family has different beliefs, sensitivities, and needs, the more you learn about proper nutrition, the more there is to discover about all the healthful foods you can eat. (The Weston A. Price Foundation and the Price-Pottenger Foundation are great places to start!)  It’s certainly more empowering than obsessing on what you should avoid. 

All that plus some good oral hygiene, physical activity, and enough sleep and hydration, and you and your loved ones will be well on your way to a healthier heart and a healthier you! 

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