Stop Counting Calories! Focus on Nutritional Value of Food, Say Experts

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Yaneff_300815According to an editorial recently published in the online journal Open Heart, it’s time to stop calorie counting and start focusing on the nutritional value of food.

Doctors James DiNicolantonio and Aseem Malhotra and professor Simon Capewell suggested that a change in dietary outlook could rapidly cut the incidences of cardiovascular disease. Researchers argued that dietary changes can rapidly improve health on a population level.

For instance, researchers explained that increasing omega-3 fatty acid intake from fatty fish, nuts, and olive oil has been associated with lower death rate from all causes, including cardiovascular disease, and a reduced risk of stroke and heart attack, within months of the diet change. On the other hand, daily consumption of a 150-calorie sugary drink is linked with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes.

The editorial suggests that clinicians have failed to switch their perception since there is an excessive focus on food calorie content from weight loss and food industries, despite the increasingly growing amount of evidence that promotes the importance of the overall nutritional content of food.

The article also cited the Action for Health in Diabetes trial published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2013. The 13.5-year study revealed that a low-calorie diet that included high levels of physical activity could not decrease cardiovascular death risk, although lifestyle and diet changes resulted in weight loss.

Evidence suggests that poor diet is the cause of disease and death more than the combination of smoking, alcohol consumption, and the lack of physical activity. The researchers believe that certain policies might help achieve rapid disease reductions, such as government subsidies to allow for the affordability of vegetables, fruits, and nuts; tighter control on junk food marketing; and the request for taxing sugar drinks.

The researchers conclude that, “Recommending a high fat Mediterranean type diet and lifestyle to our patients, friends and families might be a good place to start.”

Sources for Today’s Article:
Malhotra, A., et al., “It is time to stop counting calories, and time instead to promote dietary changes that substantially and rapidly reduce cardiovascular morbidity and mortality,” Open Heart 2015; 2: doi: 10.1136/openhrt-2015-000273.
“Shift focus from calorie counting to nutritional value for heart health, say experts,” ScienceDaily web site, August 26, 2015;
The Look AHEAD Research Group, “Cardiovascular Effects of Intensive Lifestyle Intervention in Type 2 Diabetes,” The New England Journal of Medicine 2013; 369: 145–154, doi: 10.1056/NEJMoa1212914.