A study published recently in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that diets rich in fruits and vegetables are associated with decreased signs of heart damage. The study looked for biomarkers of sub-clinical cardiac damage, cardiac strain, and inflammation in blood samples of 326 healthy individuals. The blood samples had been stored from the original DASH diet trials. These randomized controlled studies fed participants either a typical American diet, a diet higher in fruits and vegetables and lower in snacks and sweets, or the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet for eight weeks.
In this new analysis, both the fruit-and-vegetable-rich diet and the DASH diet (which also emphasizes fruits and vegetables, along with fat free or low-fat dairy products) were associated with lower subclinical cardiac damage and strain within an 8-week period. No significant association was found between any of the diets and a marker of inflammation.
The four DASH trials, completed in 1996, provided evidence that still forms the basis of dietary guidelines for cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk prevention. These studies did not, however, indicate whether the observed improvements in CVD risk factors directly protected the heart. The authors of this study concluded that what we eat does impact our cardiac health. They recommend focusing on consuming more fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and legumes and eating fewer snacks and sweets.