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Does Diet and Watching TV Increase Risk of Heart Disease?

A cross-sectional study investigates the joint effects of dietary patterns and watching TV for long periods of time on the risk of heart disease.

Cardiovascular disease (CVD), commonly known as heart disease, remains one of the leading causes of morbidity and mortality worldwide.

Studies have identified several risk factors for cardiovascular disease, including hypertension (elevated blood pressure), unhealthy dietary intake, sedentary lifestyles, and obesity. Identifying risk factors for cardiovascular disease has resulted in effective prevention strategies, which include regular exercise and healthy eating habits.

No study, however, has examined the joint association of dietary patterns and length of watching TV on cardiovascular disease risk.

A cross-sectional study, published in The British Journal of Nutrition, investigates the joint effects of dietary patterns and duration of watching TV on cardiovascular disease risk factors.

The study included 3,376 individuals from seven randomly chosen urban communities within Nanjing, China. Researchers assessed each participant’s dietary intake for the last twelve months using a well-established food-frequency questionnaire.

From this data, they constructed dietary patterns. They classified the participants into one of five categories:

  • healthy traditional pattern (high intake of vegetables, rice, fish, and shrimp)
  • animal and plant protein pattern (high intake of poultry meat and beans)
  • condiments pattern (high consumption of soya sauce, sugar, vinegar, and salt)
  • fruits, eggs, and juice pattern (high intake of fruits, eggs, milk, juice, and sweets)
  • alcohol, milk, and tea patterns (high consumption of beer, liquor, and dairy products).

The researchers also assessed the duration spent watching TV via face-to-face interviews with the participants.

The study revealed that the healthy traditional dietary pattern was significantly associated with a lower prevalence of cardiovascular disease risk factors, including abdominal obesity, hypertension, and high blood sugar.

Additionally, fewer hours spent watching TV was associated with reduced prevalence of hypertension and elevated fat levels in the blood – although this association was not statistically significant after they adjusted for confounding factors.

Most interestingly, the authors found that the individuals with healthy traditional dietary patterns and low television viewing time exhibited an even lower prevalence of cardiovascular disease risk factors.

The study highlights that dietary patterns and television watching time, independently and jointly, are associated with the prevalence of heart disease risk factors.

Therefore, an effective prevention strategy against heart disease would involve a reduction in television viewing time and the adoption of a healthy dietary pattern, which consists of a high intake of vegetables and fewer saturated fats and carbohydrates.

Future studies in a larger cohort and a more diverse population may better highlight the association between cardiovascular disease risk, diet, and television viewing.

Reference: Ye, Q., Hong, X., Wang, Z., Qin, Z., Li, C., Lai, Y., & Xu, F. (2017). Joint associations of dietary pattern and television viewing with CVD risk factors among urban men and women in China: a cross-sectional study. The British journal of nutrition, 1.

Haisam Shah BSc
Haisam Shah BSc
Haisam is a first-year Masters student in the Department of Physiology at the University of Toronto. His research involves understanding the role of cardiac fibroblasts in the progressive development of cardiac fibrosis following a myocardial infarction. He graduated from McGill University with a Bachelors of Science – Honors in Pharmacology, where he had the opportunity of investigating potential combination therapies for Glioblastoma Multiforme.
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