Lower Heart Attack Risk: Low-fat, high-fibre diet and exercise are key

UCLA scientists report that a diet low in fat and high in fruits, vegetables and whole grains, augmented with daily exercise, significantly reduced C-reactive protein levels in study participants. High levels of C-reactive protein (CRP) in the blood indicate inflammation in blood vessel walls.

Scientists now suspect that coronary artery inflammation plays a key role in making fatty deposits in the artery vulnerable to rupture, a leading cause of heart attacks. In fact, high CRP levels may be a better predictor of heart attacks than cholesterol levels, according to new research.

In the new study, the UCLA team, lead by Dr James Barnard, measured “entry and exit” blood values of 20 women, ages 51 to 79 years, attending a two-week program at the Pritikin Longevity Center. All had multiple risk factors for heart disease, including obesity, hypertension and diabetes. The women exercised daily and ate a diet focused on high-fibre carbohydrates such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Their diet also included lean, calcium-rich foods and lean servings of seafood, poultry and red meat.

The researchers found that in just two weeks, CRP levels plunged, on average, 45%. There were also major reductions in LDL cholesterol (19%), total cholesterol (17%), insulin (26%), glucose (11%), and triglycerides (15%).

Concludes Dr. Barnard: “We know that inflammation is a key problem, a leading cause of heart disease, and now we’re learning that diet and exercise plans like the Pritikin Program may be a safe, smart solution.”

Pritikin Longevity Center, Feb 4, 2004