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Heart Smart Living

Cardiologist, author, and heart health expert Dr. Sarah Samaan offers advice on how to live a heart smart life.

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Fast Food Erases the Benefits of a Traditional Asian Diet

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Singapore is a remarkably multiethnic society, combining elements of Chinese, British, Indian, and Indonesian cultures. While the cuisine is diverse and not always heart healthy, it has traditionally included plenty of seafood, fruits, and vegetables. But starting in the 1980s fast food began creeping into the dietary landscape, becoming more and more prevalent over time.

The Singapore Chinese Health Study is an ongoing investigation of the health of Singaporeans of Chinese descent. The study, which started in the 1990s with men and women age 45 through 74, tracks the health of these individuals over time. Detailed information was obtained regarding fast food, traditional Chinese food, exercise, and other health habits. A recent publication in the medical journal Circulation reports on the researchers’ assessments of over 50,000 people who were monitored for up to 16 years.

Their findings? Eating fast food just twice or more per week increased the risk of diabetes by more than 25 percent compared to those who never touched the stuff. Fast foodies were also more than 50 percent more likely to die from heart disease. In fact, those who chose to eat fast food four or more times weekly had an 80 percent rise in heart disease deaths. Importantly, the risk was independent of body weight, exercise, and calorie intake, indicating that the culprit was the fast food itself.

Exactly why fast food that is so harmful could not be proven from this study. Most likely, the increased health risks are due to fast food’s toxic stew of high sodium, high glycemic load (simple carbs), high saturated fat, and high trans fats foods.

This is not the first study to suggest a connection between fast food and poor health, but it is unique in its ability to assess the impact in a traditionally healthy culture in which fast food is in the process of taking hold. Your best bet? Switch to a Mediterranean diet, which will lower your risk for heart disease, stroke, dementia, and cancer. You’ll feel better, look better, be more productive, and give yourself the best chance of living longer.

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Tags: Weight and Heart Health , Risk Factors for Heart Disease , Diet and Heart Health

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About the Author


MD, FACC

Dr. Samaan is an acclaimed cardiologist, writer, and heart health educator.

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