The mainstream media was awash yesterday with articles proclaiming that the Western diet raises the risk of getting a heart attack. Whether it was the BBC, AFP, ABC or Reuters, they all described a study where 16,000 people in 52 countries were studied according to what they ate and their risk of getting a heart attack.
The study categorised their dietary patterns into 3 groups:
- The Western Diet – emphasis on salty snacks,fried foods, and to a lesser extent, meat.
- The Oriental Diet- high on tofu and soy products, including soy sauce.
- The Prudent Diet- rich in fruits and veggies.
It wasn’t a surprise to find out that those on the Western Diet had a 35% greater risk of getting a heart attack whereas those on the Prudent Diet had a 33% lowering of the risk. The researchers gave a neutral score for the Oriental Diet as they felt that the salt in soy sauce neutralised the protective effects of soya.
My criticism of this study is that it oversimplifies matters concerning eating habits and tends to give the impression that fruits and vegetables are the perfect solution and that all Western diet are bad.
The fact of the matter is, whether you are in Maine, Mumbai or Malaysia, you need to reduce salty, oily, fried or fatty foods,period. The style of cooking is what matters. That includes reducing the intake of fried veggies in favour of raw or lightly blanched styles. Taking fried kai-lan in oyster sauce will only serve to destroy the protective effects of the veggies. Similarly, a lean cut of grilled tenderloin is much better than pan-fried rib-eye, if taken in moderation, due to the lower fat content.
In today’s egalitarian society, its certainly not heartening to note that heart attacks are no longer an affliction of only the rich, perhaps a reflection of improper eating habits irrespective of social status. Heart disease is a problem that needs to be addressed by all strata of society – and this begins with you being what you eat.