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A new study looks at the accuracy of using food quality scores as a means of assessing a patient’s risk of coronary artery disease.


Cardiovascular disease is reported to account for 1 in 4 deaths globally, and is the number one cause of death in the United States. While it is widely known that poor diet can increase the risk of an adverse cardiovascular event, the tools currently available to assist doctors in assessing and tracking a patient’s diet-related risk factors for coronary disease typically require nutrient analysis and substantial time to administer. As a result, dietary risk generally goes unrecorded in patient records.

A recent study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests that it may be possible to develop a simple tool that relies on food quality scores (FQS) and makes it easier to assess the heart-healthiness of a patient’s diet.  Food quality scores are values assigned to foods based on their known relationship with various health outcomes. In the case of this study, the scores were assigned based on the impact different foods are known to have on long-term weight gain. Researchers then attempted to evaluate whether a patient’s overall food score could be correlated to a risk of developing cardiovascular disease.

The study followed three cohorts of men and women in the US between 1984 and 2012, and assessed their diets by means of periodic questionnaires. The results of the questionnaires were compared against cardiovascular health outcomes for participants over the roughly 26 years of the study to evaluate the accuracy of the FQS as a predictor of risk for fatal and non-fatal cardiovascular events.

Overall, 71,415 women (aged 43–63 years in 1984), 42,945 men (aged 40–75 years in 1986), and 93,131 younger women (aged 27–44 years in 1991) without a history of cardiovascular disease were followed over the period of the study. In roughly 26 years of follow-up, there were 6817 cardiovascular events, of which 4588 were cases of non-fatal myocardial infarction (heart attack), and 2131 were fatal events.

Results of the study showed that a higher FQS (indicating a better quality diet) was associated with a lower risk of coronary artery disease. The association was consistent across subgroups defined by body mass index (BMI), physical activity, and smoking status. Moreover, the FQS-based assessment method appeared to be as accurate in predicting cardiovascular risk as other, more complex assessment methods using nutrient analysis or other time-consuming approaches.

Authors of the study suggest that these results may point the way to development of a quick screening questionnaire that does not require much time on the part of either the patient or the doctor, and may be an effective tool for helping to assess and reduce long-term cardiovascular risk.




Written By: Linda Jensen

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