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Another Study Links Western Diet to Heart, Health Risks
Date:1/22/2008

But it also found that diet soda doesn't protect against metabolic syndrome

TUESDAY, Jan. 22 (HealthDay News) -- A "Western" diet heavy in meat, fried foods and refined grains puts people at higher risk of developing metabolic syndrome, the collection of risk factors for heart problems, stroke and type 2 diabetes, a new study found.

The findings confirmed previous research with one interesting twist: Drinking diet soda won't change the health-risk equation (surprisingly, it ups the risk, too), although consuming more dairy might protect you.

A whopping 60.5 percent of the study participants either had metabolic syndrome at the start of the study or developed it during nine years of follow-up.

"This is a red-alert wake-up call," said Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, director of Women and Heart Disease at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, who was not involved with the study. "I love that they call this a Western diet. It's the perspective that we, as Americans, cannot eat any worse."

The findings were published in the Jan. 22 issue of Circulation.

A person is thought to have metabolic syndrome if he or she has three or more of the following cardiovascular risk factors: large waist circumference, high blood pressure, high fasting glucose levels, low HDL ("good") cholesterol levels and high triglycerides.

According to U.S. government data collected between 1988 and 1994, 24 percent of adult Americans (47 million people) had metabolic syndrome. That number is probably higher now, the study authors stated.

Although obesity and physical inactivity underlie most cases of metabolic syndrome, the role of diet is still not well understood.

The authors of the new study relied on "food frequency" questionnaires that had been filled out by almost 10,000 people participating in the government-sponsored Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities study. The questionnaire included 66 ite
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