Updated: Aug 7, 2020
The aim of this ecological study was to identify the main nutritional factors related to the prevalence of cardiovascular diseases (CVD) in Europe, based on a comparison of international statistics.
The mean consumption of 62 food items from the FAOSTAT database (1993–2008) was compared with the actual statistics of five CVD indicators in 42 European countries. Several other exogenous factors (health expenditure, smoking, body mass index) and the historical stability of results were also examined.
“We found exceptionally strong relationships between some of the examined factors, the highest being a correlation between raised cholesterol in men and the combined consumption of animal fat and animal protein.
“The most significant dietary correlate of low CVD risk was high total fat and animal protein consumption”.
“Our results do not support the association between CVDs and saturated fat, which is still contained in official dietary guidelines. Instead, they agree with data accumulated from recent studies that link CVD risk with the high-glycaemic index/load of carbohydrate-based diets. In the absence of any scientific evidence connecting saturated fat with CVDs, these findings show that current dietary recommendations regarding CVDs should be seriously reconsidered”.
“Low cholesterol levels correlate most strongly with the proportion of plant food energy in the diet and with sources of plant carbohydrates.” (They singled out cereals, potatoes...and strangely onions in this data).
“Smoking correlates quite strongly with lower cholesterol as well, but in men only.”
“Remarkably, the relationship of raised cholesterol with CVD risk is always negative, especially in the case of total CVD mortality.”
“The results of our study show that animal fat (and especially its combination with animal protein) is a very strong predictor of raised cholesterol levels. This is in accordance with the meta-analyses of clinical trials, which show that saturated animal fat is the major trigger of raised cholesterol. Interestingly, the relationship between raised cholesterol and CVD indicators in the present study is always negative”.
“The negative relationship between raised cholesterol and CVD may seem counterintuitive, but it is not at variance with the available evidence”.
“The results of our study show that high-glycaemic carbohydrates or a high overall proportion of carbohydrates in the diet are the key ecological correlates of CVD risk”.
“These findings strikingly contradict the traditional ‘saturated fat hypothesis’, but in reality, they are compatible with the evidence accumulated from observational studies that points to both high glycaemic index and high glycaemic load as important triggers of CVD”.
I could go on with quotes from the study…but all the details and some cool graphs depicting the various foods and their effects are available here: