Study to find the best diet to reduce heart disease and diabetes

The Medical Research Council has announced the launch of a landmark study to identify the best dietary strategies to reduce heart disease and Type 2 diabetes.

The results of the study will be used to inform public health policy for the prevention of heart disease, and may provide valuable information to enable food producers and manufacturers reformulate their products to make them healthier and to develop new foods.

The £2.7m four-year study, one of the largest of its kind in the world, is funded by the Food Standards Agency and led by MRC Human Nutrition Research, Cambridge (MRC-HNR), who will work with scientists at Imperial College London (Imperial), Kings College London (KCL), University of Reading (Reading) and University of Surrey (Surrey).

The research team will look at the impact of changes in the amount and composition of fat and carbohydrate on the chances of developing a collection of risk factors linked to heart disease and Type 2 diabetes.  

The global incidence of these risk factors, collectively known as the Metabolic Syndrome, is soaring.  They include obesity, raised blood pressure and abnormal blood fat levels and affect up to a quarter of adults in the UK.

In most cases, development of the Metabolic Syndrome is caused by eating too much of the wrong kind of foods and taking too little exercise.  People who eat food rich in saturated fat found in meat and dairy products, tend to be at greater risk of developing the Metabolic Syndrome, but less is known about foods that may help to reduce the risk.

Lead researcher, Dr Susan Jebb, Head of Nutrition and Health Research at MRC Human Nutrition Research in Cambridge, said:

“There is some evidence that the amount and quality of fat and carbohydrate in the diet can modify some features of the Metabolic Syndrome. Current dietary guidelines aim to reduce the levels of saturated fat in the diet, but many questions remain unanswered.  This research will use a series of detailed tests to investigate what happens to the health of hundreds of people when diets are manipulated to change the fat and carbohydrate content.  This will help to build evidence on which dietary recommendations to reduce the risk of the metabolic syndrome can be based.”

Tom Murray, Head of Nutrition at the Food Standards Agency, said:

“The results of the ground-breaking piece of research being co-ordinated by the MRC for the Food Standards Agency should enable us to give clearer advice to the public on consumption of fats and carbohydrates.” http://www.mrc.ac.uk

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