A new eating pattern that involves frequent dining out increases risk for heart disease, according to a recent study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
Known as the PESA study (Progression of Early Subclinical Atherosclerosis), this study analyzed the cardiovascular health of more than 4,000 “healthy” adults employed by Santander Bank in Madrid, Spain. Participants were 40–54 years old and completed both questionnaires and medical exams to assess their diet, health and lifestyle.
Overall, researchers identified three key eating patterns among study participants. The first was a Mediterranean diet, which includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, olive oil, low-fat dairy, lean meat and fish and is low in processed foods. The second was a Western-style diet, which is rich in refined grains, processed foods, dairy, sweets, and red meats. Together, more than 80% of participants followed one of these two diets.
However, the remaining one-fifth of participants followed what researchers term the “social-business” eating pattern. This diet consists largely of red meat, pre-made meals, snacks, sugary beverages and excessive alcohol. Individuals following the social-business eating pattern tended to dine in restaurants more frequently than adults with other dietary patterns.
The problem, based on study findings, is that this new eating pattern appears to take a toll on heart health. Participants with a social-business eating pattern were more likely to have cardiovascular risk factors like high blood pressure and diabetes compared to those following a Mediterranean-style diet. And while study participants were free of heart disease, those with a social-business eating pattern were 31% more likely to have dangerous plaque build-up in their arteries, putting them at increased risk for heart attack and heart disease.
The take-home message, according to experts, is the importance of maintaining a wholesome diet to promote better health. Rather than focusing on eliminating or consuming individual foods, experts suggest looking at overall eating patterns to improve health. After all, it’s our eating patterns over time that have a major impact on health. Experts argue that a healthy diet is one of the most powerful tools for the prevention of heart disease and promoting better health.