Healthy Countries Consume More Fat, More Animal Protein, Fewer Carbs, New Study Finds

A new study examining food consumption in 158 nations found that a higher consumption of fat and animal proteins was associated with decreased risk of heart disease. Meanwhile, more carbohydrates—especially more wheat and cereals—were associated with higher rates of cardiovascular death. These data are the latest to confirm that the U.S. government’s high-carbohydrate diet is quite likely not the best advice.

In this latest study, a team of Czech researchers analyzed the consumption of 60 food items in 158 countries around the globe between 1993 and 2011

The study found that the risk of mortality from cardiovascular disease was lower with higher intake of total fats and protein, animal protein and fat, meats, fruits, coffee and cheese. Moreover, “regardless of the statistical method used, the results always show very similar trends and identify high carbohydrate consumption (mainly in the form of cereals and wheat, in particular) as the dietary factor most consistently associated with the risk of cardiovascular diseases.”

The researchers cautioned about the limitations of their data from Food and Agriculture Organization Corporate Statistical Database (FAOSTAT), which reflects population-wide food availability rather than actual consumption as well as the difficulties in combining data from countries using different measurement and collection methods. However, the Czech findings on fats and carbohydrates are consistent with those of another recent global study, called PURE, with higher-quality data from 18 countries.

All these data are limited in that they are observational and therefore can only show an association, not causation. However, the fact that they contradict the current population-wide guidelines issued by governments around the world, including our own, is strong evidence that these guidelines are not likely to be promoting good health. (We already know that the guidelines are not based on the best and most current science.)

Other study findings:

  1. High cholesterol was inversely associated with CVD deaths in most countries.
  2. Glucose from cereals and starches was more strongly associated with raised blood glucose than refined sugar.
  3. Total fat and animal fat consumption were the most frequent factors to be inversely correlated with cardiovascular outcomes (Translation: the more fat and animal fat eaten in a country, the lower the rates of poor cardiovascular outcomes).
  4. The food that most consistently correlated with poor cardiovascular risk was sunflower oil, followed by wheat, potatoes, and milk.