Researchers at the Providence Medical Research Center in Spokane, Washington compared the effects of intensive dietary counseling in heart attack patients.
Fifty were instructed to follow an American Heart Association (AHA) low-fat diet and another 51 were instructed to follow a Mediterranean diet. Patients in both diet groups met twice a week with a registered dietitian for the first two months and then monthly for the next 3-6 months. Both groups also attended at least 6 group counseling sessions.
Those on the Mediterranean-style diet were allowed to increase their fat intake to about 40% of calories by consuming omega-3 rich fish 3-5 times per week and encouraged to consume avocados, nuts, and to use olive oil. By contrast, those assigned to the lowfat diet group were instructed to keep fat intake under 30% of the calories. They were instructed to emphasize more fruits and vegetables and consume limited amounts of lean meats like chicken. Both groups were discouraged from eating fatty meats, butter, cheese cream, and other foods high in saturated fat and cholesterol.
Over the next 4 years, 8 people in each of these two intensive dietary counseling groups suffered a heart attacks, stroke, or other cardiovascular disease (CVD) event but none died. These two groups of intensive dietary counseling patients were compared with a similar group of 101 people who had also recently survived a heart attack but received no intensive dietary counseling. Over the same 4-year period this control group of 101 subjects suffered 40 CVD events and several died. According to Dr. Tuttle, who conducted this study, most of the patients assigned to the two intensive dietary counseling groups did a pretty good job complying to their assigned diets.1
Bottom Line: The 60% reduction in CVD events in this study provides convincing evidence for the efficacy of more intensive dietary counseling for people at high risk of CVD. This dramatic risk reduction is in marked contrast for PCI, which costs at least 10 to 100 times as much as intensive dietary counseling but has proven to be useless for preventing heart attacks and strokes.
By James J. Kenney, PhD, RD, FACN
1. American Cardiology 56th Annual Scientific Session, New Orleans, March 24-27
Stephanie Ronco has been editing for Food and Health Communications since 2011. She graduated from Colorado College magna cum laude with distinction in Comparative Literature. She was elected a member of Phi Beta Kappa in 2008.