Association Between Dietary Factors and Mortality From Heart Disease, Stroke, and Type 2 Diabetes in the United States

Key Points

Question  What is the estimated mortality due to heart disease, stroke, or type 2 diabetes (cardiometabolic deaths) associated with suboptimal intakes of 10 dietary factors in the United States?

Findings  In 2012, suboptimal intake of dietary factors was associated with an estimated 318 656 cardiometabolic deaths, representing 45.4% of cardiometabolic deaths. The highest proportions of cardiometabolic deaths were estimated to be related to excess sodium intake, insufficient intake of nuts/seeds, high intake of processed meats, and low intake of seafood omega-3 fats.

Meaning  Suboptimal intake of specific foods and nutrients was associated with a substantial proportion of deaths due to heart disease, stroke, or type 2 diabetes.


Importance  In the United States, national associations of individual dietary factors with specific cardiometabolic diseases are not well established.

Objective  To estimate associations of intake of 10 specific dietary factors with mortality due to heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes (cardiometabolic mortality) among US adults.

Design, Setting, and Participants  A comparative risk assessment model incorporated data and corresponding uncertainty on population demographics and dietary habits from National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (1999-2002: n = 8104; 2009-2012: n = 8516); estimated associations of diet and disease from meta-analyses of prospective studies and clinical trials with validity analyses to assess potential bias; and estimated disease-specific national mortality from the National Center for Health Statistics.

Exposures  Consumption of 10 foods/nutrients associated with cardiometabolic diseases: fruits, vegetables, nuts/seeds, whole grains, unprocessed red meats, processed meats, sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs), polyunsaturated fats, seafood omega-3 fats, and sodium.

Main Outcomes and Measures  Estimated absolute and percentage mortality due to heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes in 2012. Disease-specific and demographic-specific (age, sex, race, and education) mortality and trends between 2002 and 2012 were also evaluated.

Results  In 2012, 702 308 cardiometabolic deaths occurred in US adults, including 506 100 from heart disease (371 266 coronary heart disease, 35 019 hypertensive heart disease, and 99 815 other cardiovascular disease), 128 294 from stroke (16 125 ischemic, 32 591 hemorrhagic, and 79 578 other), and 67 914 from type 2 diabetes. Of these, an estimated 318 656 (95% uncertainty interval [UI], 306 064-329 755; 45.4%) cardiometabolic deaths per year were associated with suboptimal intakes—48.6% (95% UI, 46.2%-50.9%) of cardiometabolic deaths in men and 41.8% (95% UI, 39.3%-44.2%) in women; 64.2% (95% UI, 60.6%-67.9%) at younger ages (25-34 years) and 35.7% (95% UI, 33.1%-38.1%) at older ages (≥75 years); 53.1% (95% UI, 51.6%-54.8%) among blacks, 50.0% (95% UI, 48.2%-51.8%) among Hispanics, and 42.8% (95% UI, 40.9%-44.5%) among whites; and 46.8% (95% UI, 44.9%-48.7%) among lower-, 45.7% (95% UI, 44.2%-47.4%) among medium-, and 39.1% (95% UI, 37.2%-41.2%) among higher-educated individuals. The largest numbers of estimated diet-related cardiometabolic deaths were related to high sodium (66 508 deaths in 2012; 9.5% of all cardiometabolic deaths), low nuts/seeds (59 374; 8.5%), high processed meats (57 766; 8.2%), low seafood omega-3 fats (54 626; 7.8%), low vegetables (53 410; 7.6%), low fruits (52 547; 7.5%), and high SSBs (51 694; 7.4%). Between 2002 and 2012, population-adjusted US cardiometabolic deaths per year decreased by 26.5%. The greatest decline was associated with insufficient polyunsaturated fats (−20.8% relative change [95% UI, −18.5% to −22.8%]), nuts/seeds (−18.0% [95% UI, −14.6% to −21.0%]), and excess SSBs (−14.5% [95% UI, −12.0% to −16.9%]). The greatest increase was associated with unprocessed red meats (+14.4% [95% UI, 9.1%-19.5%]).

Conclusions and Relevance  Dietary factors were estimated to be associated with a substantial proportion of deaths from heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. These results should help identify priorities, guide public health planning, and inform strategies to alter dietary habits and improve health.

JAMA. 2017;317(9):912-924.

Intake of individual saturated fatty acids and risk of coronary heart disease in US men and women: two prospective longitudinal cohort studies

Objectives To investigate the association between long term intake of individual saturated fatty acids (SFAs) and the risk of coronary heart disease, in two large cohort studies.

Design Prospective, longitudinal cohort study.

Setting Health professionals in the United States.

Participants 73 147 women in the Nurses’ Health Study (1984-2012) and 42 635 men in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study (1986-2010), who were free of major chronic diseases at baseline.

Main outcome measure Incidence of coronary heart disease (n=7035) was self-reported, and related deaths were identified by searching National Death Index or through report of next of kin or postal authority. Cases were confirmed by medical records review.

Results Mean intake of SFAs accounted for 9.0-11.3% energy intake over time, and was mainly composed of lauric acid (12:0), myristic acid (14:0), palmitic acid (16:0), and stearic acid (18:0; 8.8-10.7% energy). Intake of 12:0, 14:0, 16:0 and 18:0 were highly correlated, with Spearman correlation coefficients between 0.38 and 0.93 (all P<0.001). Comparing the highest to the lowest groups of individual SFA intakes, hazard ratios of coronary heart disease were 1.07 (95% confidence interval 0.99 to 1.15; Ptrend=0.05) for 12:0, 1.13 (1.05 to 1.22; Ptrend<0.001) for 14:0, 1.18 (1.09 to 1.27; Ptrend<0.001) for 16:0, 1.18 (1.09 to 1.28; Ptrend<0.001) for 18:0, and 1.18 (1.09 to 1.28; Ptrend<0.001) for all four SFAs combined (12:0-18:0), after multivariate adjustment of lifestyle factors and total energy intake. Hazard ratios of coronary heart disease for isocaloric replacement of 1% energy from 12:0-18:0 were 0.92 (95% confidence interval 0.89 to 0.96; P<0.001) for polyunsaturated fat, 0.95 (0.90 to 1.01; P=0.08) for monounsaturated fat, 0.94 (0.91 to 0.97; P<0.001) for whole grain carbohydrates, and 0.93 (0.89 to 0.97; P=0.001) for plant proteins. For individual SFAs, the lowest risk of coronary heart disease was observed when the most abundant SFA, 16:0, was replaced. Hazard ratios of coronary heart disease for replacing 1% energy from 16:0 were 0.88 (95% confidence interval 0.81 to 0.96; P=0.002) for polyunsaturated fat, 0.92 (0.83 to 1.02; P=0.10) for monounsaturated fat, 0.90 (0.83 to 0.97; P=0.01) for whole grain carbohydrates, and 0.89 (0.82 to 0.97; P=0.01) for plant proteins.

Conclusions Higher dietary intakes of major SFAs are associated with an increased risk of coronary heart disease. Owing to similar associations and high correlations among individual SFAs, dietary recommendations for the prevention of coronary heart disease should continue to focus on replacing total saturated fat with more healthy sources of energy.

Reference: BMJ 2016;355:i5796

Timing of Allergenic Food Introduction to the Infant Diet and Risk of Allergic or Autoimmune Disease A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis

Importance  Timing of introduction of allergenic foods to the infant diet may influence the risk of allergic or autoimmune disease, but the evidence for this has not been comprehensively synthesized.

Objective  To systematically review and meta-analyze evidence that timing of allergenic food introduction during infancy influences risk of allergic or autoimmune disease.

Data Sources  MEDLINE, EMBASE, Web of Science, CENTRAL, and LILACS databases were searched between January 1946 and March 2016.

Study Selection  Intervention trials and observational studies that evaluated timing of allergenic food introduction during the first year of life and reported allergic or autoimmune disease or allergic sensitization were included.

Data Extraction and Synthesis  Data were extracted in duplicate and synthesized for meta-analysis using generic inverse variance or Mantel-Haenszel methods with a random-effects model. GRADE was used to assess the certainty of evidence.

Main Outcomes and Measures  Wheeze, eczema, allergic rhinitis, food allergy, allergic sensitization, type 1 diabetes mellitus, celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease, autoimmune thyroid disease, and juvenile rheumatoid arthritis.

Results  Of 16 289 original titles screened, data were extracted from 204 titles reporting 146 studies. There was moderate-certainty evidence from 5 trials (1915 participants) that early egg introduction at 4 to 6 months was associated with reduced egg allergy (risk ratio [RR], 0.56; 95% CI, 0.36-0.87; I2 = 36%; P = .009). Absolute risk reduction for a population with 5.4% incidence of egg allergy was 24 cases (95% CI, 7-35 cases) per 1000 population. There was moderate-certainty evidence from 2 trials (1550 participants) that early peanut introduction at 4 to 11 months was associated with reduced peanut allergy (RR, 0.29; 95% CI, 0.11-0.74; I2 = 66%; P = .009). Absolute risk reduction for a population with 2.5% incidence of peanut allergy was 18 cases (95% CI, 6-22 cases) per 1000 population. Certainty of evidence was downgraded because of imprecision of effect estimates and indirectness of the populations and interventions studied. Timing of egg or peanut introduction was not associated with risk of allergy to other foods. There was low- to very low-certainty evidence that early fish introduction was associated with reduced allergic sensitization and rhinitis. There was high-certainty evidence that timing of gluten introduction was not associated with celiac disease risk, and timing of allergenic food introduction was not associated with other outcomes.

Conclusions and Relevance  In this systematic review, early egg or peanut introduction to the infant diet was associated with lower risk of developing egg or peanut allergy. These findings must be considered in the context of limitations in the primary studies.

JAMA. 2016;316(11):1181-1192.

Fruit and vegetable consumption in adolescence and early adulthood and risk of breast cancer: population based cohort study

Objective To evaluate the association between fruit and vegetable intake during adolescence and early adulthood and risk of breast cancer.

Design Prospective cohort study.

Setting Health professionals in the United States.

Participants 90 476 premenopausal women aged 27-44 from the Nurses’ Health Study II who completed a questionnaire on diet in 1991 as well as 44 223 of those women who completed a questionnaire about their diet during adolescence in 1998.

Main outcome measure Incident cases of invasive breast cancer, identified through self report and confirmed by pathology report.

Results There were 3235 cases of invasive breast cancer during follow-up to 2013. Of these, 1347 cases were among women who completed a questionnaire about their diet during adolescence (ages 13-18). Total fruit consumption during adolescence was associated with a lower risk of breast cancer. The hazard ratio was 0.75 (95% confidence interval 0.62 to 0.90; P=0.01 for trend) for the highest (median intake 2.9 servings/day) versus the lowest (median intake 0.5 serving/day) fifth of intake. The association for fruit intake during adolescence was independent of adult fruit intake. There was no association between risk and total fruit intake in early adulthood and total vegetable intake in either adolescence or early adulthood. Higher early adulthood intake of fruits and vegetables rich in α carotene was associated with lower risk of premenopausal breast cancer. The hazard ratio was 0.82 (0.70 to 0.96) for the highest fifth (median intake 0.5 serving/day) versus the lowest fifth (median intake 0.03 serving/day) intake. The association with adolescent fruit intake was stronger for both estrogen and progesterone receptor negative cancers than estrogen and progesterone receptor positive cancers (P=0.02 for heterogeneity). For individual fruits and vegetables, greater consumption of apple, banana, and grapes during adolescence and oranges and kale during early adulthood was significantly associated with a reduced risk of breast cancer. Fruit juice intake in adolescence or early adulthood was not associated with risk.

Conclusion There is an association between higher fruit intake and lower risk of breast cancer. Food choices during adolescence might be particularly important.

BMJ 2016;353:i2343

Randomized Trial of Introduction of Allergenic Foods in Breast-Fed Infants


The age at which allergenic foods should be introduced into the diet of breast-fed infants is uncertain. We evaluated whether the early introduction of allergenic foods in the diet of breast-fed infants would protect against the development of food allergy.


We recruited, from the general population, 1303 exclusively breast-fed infants who were 3 months of age and randomly assigned them to the early introduction of six allergenic foods (peanut, cooked egg, cow’s milk, sesame, whitefish, and wheat; early-introduction group) or to the current practice recommended in the United Kingdom of exclusive breast-feeding to approximately 6 months of age (standard-introduction group). The primary outcome was food allergy to one or more of the six foods between 1 year and 3 years of age.


In the intention-to-treat analysis, food allergy to one or more of the six intervention foods developed in 7.1% of the participants in the standard-introduction group (42 of 595 participants) and in 5.6% of those in the early-introduction group (32 of 567) (P=0.32). In the per-protocol analysis, the prevalence of any food allergy was significantly lower in the early-introduction group than in the standard-introduction group (2.4% vs. 7.3%, P=0.01), as was the prevalence of peanut allergy (0% vs. 2.5%, P=0.003) and egg allergy (1.4% vs. 5.5%, P=0.009); there were no significant effects with respect to milk, sesame, fish, or wheat. The consumption of 2 g per week of peanut or egg-white protein was associated with a significantly lower prevalence of these respective allergies than was less consumption. The early introduction of all six foods was not easily achieved but was safe.


The trial did not show the efficacy of early introduction of allergenic foods in an intention-to-treat analysis. Further analysis raised the question of whether the prevention of food allergy by means of early introduction of multiple allergenic foods was dose-dependent. (Funded by the Food Standards Agency and others; EAT Current Controlled Trials number, ISRCTN14254740.)

N Engl J Med 2016; 374:1733-1743

Re-evaluation of the traditional diet-heart hypothesis: analysis of recovered data from Minnesota Coronary Experiment (1968-73)

Objective To examine the traditional diet-heart hypothesis through recovery and analysis of previously unpublished data from the Minnesota Coronary Experiment (MCE) and to put findings in the context of existing diet-heart randomized controlled trials through a systematic review and meta-analysis.

Design The MCE (1968-73) is a double blind randomized controlled trial designed to test whether replacement of saturated fat with vegetable oil rich in linoleic acid reduces coronary heart disease and death by lowering serum cholesterol. Recovered MCE unpublished documents and raw data were analyzed according to hypotheses prespecified by original investigators. Further, a systematic review and meta-analyses of randomized controlled trials that lowered serum cholesterol by providing vegetable oil rich in linoleic acid in place of saturated fat without confounding by concomitant interventions was conducted.

Setting One nursing home and six state mental hospitals in Minnesota, United States.

Participants Unpublished documents with completed analyses for the randomized cohort of 9423 women and men aged 20-97; longitudinal data on serum cholesterol for the 2355 participants exposed to the study diets for a year or more; 149 completed autopsy files.

Interventions Serum cholesterol lowering diet that replaced saturated fat with linoleic acid (from corn oil and corn oil polyunsaturated margarine). Control diet was high in saturated fat from animal fats, common margarines, and shortenings.

Main outcome measures Death from all causes; association between changes in serum cholesterol and death; and coronary atherosclerosis and myocardial infarcts detected at autopsy.

Results The intervention group had significant reduction in serum cholesterol compared with controls (mean change from baseline −13.8% v −1.0%; P<0.001). Kaplan Meier graphs showed no mortality benefit for the intervention group in the full randomized cohort or for any prespecified subgroup. There was a 22% higher risk of death for each 30 mg/dL (0.78 mmol/L) reduction in serum cholesterol in covariate adjusted Cox regression models (hazard ratio 1.22, 95% confidence interval 1.14 to 1.32; P<0.001). There was no evidence of benefit in the intervention group for coronary atherosclerosis or myocardial infarcts. Systematic review identified five randomized controlled trials for inclusion (n=10 808). In meta-analyses, these cholesterol lowering interventions showed no evidence of benefit on mortality from coronary heart disease (1.13, 0.83 to 1.54) or all cause mortality (1.07, 0.90 to 1.27).

Conclusions Available evidence from randomized controlled trials shows that replacement of saturated fat in the diet with linoleic acid effectively lowers serum cholesterol but does not support the hypothesis that this translates to a lower risk of death from coronary heart disease or all causes. Findings from the Minnesota Coronary Experiment add to growing evidence that incomplete publication has contributed to overestimation of the benefits of replacing saturated fat with vegetable oils rich in linoleic acid.

BMJ 2016;353:i1246

Association of Seafood Consumption, Brain Mercury Level, and APOE ε4 Status With Brain Neuropathology in Older Adults

Importance  Seafood consumption is promoted for its many health benefits even though its contamination by mercury, a known neurotoxin, is a growing concern.

Objective  To determine whether seafood consumption is correlated with increased brain mercury levels and also whether seafood consumption or brain mercury levels are correlated with brain neuropathologies.

Design, Setting, and Participants  Cross-sectional analyses of deceased participants in the Memory and Aging Project clinical neuropathological cohort study, 2004-2013. Participants resided in Chicago retirement communities and subsidized housing. The study included 286 autopsied brains of 554 deceased participants (51.6%). The mean (SD) age at death was 89.9 (6.1) years, 67% (193) were women, and the mean (SD) educational attainment was 14.6 (2.7) years.

Exposures  Seafood intake was first measured by a food frequency questionnaire at a mean of 4.5 years before death.

Main Outcomes and Measures  Dementia-related pathologies assessed were Alzheimer disease, Lewy bodies, and the number of macroinfarcts and microinfarcts. Dietary consumption of seafood and n-3 fatty acids was annually assessed by a food frequency questionnaire in the years before death. Tissue concentrations of mercury and selenium were measured using instrumental neutron activation analyses.

Results  Among the 286 autopsied brains of 544 participants, brain mercury levels were positively correlated with the number of seafood meals consumed per week (ρ = 0.16; P = .02). In models adjusted for age, sex, education, and total energy intake, seafood consumption (≥ 1 meal[s]/week) was significantly correlated with less Alzheimer disease pathology including lower density of neuritic plaques (β = −0.69 score units [95% CI, −1.34 to −0.04]), less severe and widespread neurofibrillary tangles (β = −0.77 score units [95% CI, −1.52 to −0.02]), and lower neuropathologically defined Alzheimer disease (β = −0.53 score units [95% CI, −0.96 to −0.10]) but only among apolipoprotein E (APOE ε4) carriers. Higher intake levels of α-linolenic acid (18:3 n-3) were correlated with lower odds of cerebral macroinfarctions (odds ratio for tertiles 3 vs 1, 0.51 [95% CI, 0.27 to 0.94]). Fish oil supplementation had no statistically significant correlation with any neuropathologic marker. Higher brain concentrations of mercury were not significantly correlated with increased levels of brain neuropathology.

Conclusions and Relevance  In cross-sectional analyses, moderate seafood consumption was correlated with lesser Alzheimer disease neuropathology. Although seafood consumption was also correlated with higher brain levels of mercury, these levels were not correlated with brain neuropathology.

By Martha Clare Morris et al, JAMA. 2016;315(5):. doi:10.1001/jama.2015.19451