Diet and heart disease: a stronger link? – Free Online Library Essay

Investigation into the relationship between diet and heart disease are limited by ethics and expense: Researchers can’t very well have
one group of people eating lots of cholesterol-laden food for decades
and maintain antoerh group on a low-cholesterol diet. By quilting together animal studies, epidemiological research and small-scale or
otherwise limited human experiments, scientists have hypothesized a
link, but debate continues (SN: 12/22 ; 29/84, p. 390).

Two studies in the March 28 NEW ENGLAND JOURNAL OF MEDICINE come
down on the side of such a link, but neither alone is likely to be the
final word.

We Will Write a Custom Essay Specifically
For You For Only $13.90/page!

order now

In one study from Leiden University in the Netherlands, 39 men with
at least one coronary artery choked to less than half its diameter by
cholesterol deposits were placed on vegetarian diets to lower
cholesterol levels in their blood. After two years, X-ray studies of
their hearts revealed no increased obstruction in 18 of the 39 men,
which, the researchers reports, indicates that “dietary
intervention may reduce the rate of coronary lesion growth.”

Since the study involved snaking a catheter into the heart to
assess the blockage — a procedure that carries a small risk — no
control group was followed. The researchers admit that this limits the
usefulness of the study. In an accompanying editorial, David H.
Blankenhorn of the University of Southern California in Los Angeles
notes the same lack but observes that the study “provides the only
direct information we have relating a defined diet to measured changes
in coronary lesions.”

The second report involved 1,001 middle-aged men in the
Ireland-Boston Diet-Heart study, a novel data base that includes men in
Ireland, brothers of these men who moved to Boston, and Boston sons of
Irish immigrants.

The three groups had about the same rate of heart disease-related
death. However, when the researchers looked back at 20-year-old records
of what the men had said they were eating at the study’s outset,
they found that those men with high-cholesterol diets — wherever they
lived — were more likely to develop heart disease. The finding,
conclude the scientists from Harvard University in Boston and Trinity
and University colleges in Dublin, “supports the hypothesis that
diet is related, albeit weakly, to the development of coronary heart

The Ireland-Boston study shows that equations taking into account
how much and what kinds of food are eaten are as predictive of heart
disease as is smoking, Blankenhorn told SCIENCE NEWS.

Other researchers, who had not yet seen the reports, were unwilling
to comment on ptheir importance. But W. Virgil Brown, an
atherosclerosis expert at the Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in New York,
when told some of the details of the Dutch study, said, “I would be
very hesitant to make too much of that.”

The studies, notes Blankenhorn, “support the need for a change
in the national diet and indicate merit for vegetarian diets.”
But, he observes, “there is sufficient acknowledged weakness in
both studies to provide grounds for rebuttal by dedicated meat eaters
and oponents of a national diet change.” Stay tuned.


I'm Tamara!

Would you like to get a custom essay? How about receiving a customized one?

Check it out