People who eat diets high in fried foods and meat are more likely than "prudent" eaters to suffer acute heart attacks, according to a global study led by Canadian researchers from McMaster University.
Researchers also found loading up on tofu and soy appears to have no effect on heart attack risk.
In this new study, 5,761 heart attack sufferers from 52 countries were scored according to how frequently they ate eggs, grains, red and white meat, fish, dairy, raw vegetables, fruits and other foods.
Three major patterns of diet were identified: the "Oriental" diet was high on tofu and soy and other sauces, the "Western" diet was high in fried foods, salty snacks, eggs and meat and the "Prudent" diet was high in fruit and vegetables.
People who ate a "Prudent" diet had 30 percent lower risk of heart attack compared to people who ate little or no fruits and vegetables. Those ate a "Western" diet were 35 percent more likely to have a heart attack versus those who ate little or no fried foods and meat.
The "Oriental" pattern of eating was neither harmful nor beneficial in terms of heart attack risk, possibly due to the higher sodium content of soy and other sauces. (High amounts of sodium increase blood pressure.)
Regardless of which diet pattern you follow, eating fried foods and meat raises your heart attack risk. Ethnic fried foods like samosas, pakoras and fried won ton are just as bad for your heart as North American french fries, pizza and potato chips, say the researchers.
An estimated 70,000 heart attacks occur each year in Canada, and approximately 19,000 Canadians die each year as a result, according to the Heart and Stroke Foundation.
Eating 8 to 10 servings of fruits and vegetables a day can lower heart attack risk by reducing inflammation, lower blood cholesterol and preventing hardening of the arteries. One medium whole fruit or one-half cup (125 ml) of fresh, frozen or canned vegetables makes up one Food Guide serving.
For more information on nutrition strategies to prevent heart attacks, check out Leslie Beck's Foods that Fight Disease.
This study was published in Circulation, the journal of the American Heart Association.
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