A funny thing happens to people living in rural areas of South East Asia when they move to the city – they suddenly become a high-risk group for heart disease.
Heart disease is a rarity in the typical village in India, where the daily diet includes 500 g of whole grains, such as wheat, rice, millet, and pulses. Villagers also use mustard oil, which is rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
But once the villager moves to the city, potatoes and refined carbohydrate replace whole grain as a staple of the diet.
A research team from Moradabad, India, decided to test out the theory that the dietary change was to blame on 1,000 heart patients. Half were put on a special, Indo-Mediterranean diet, similar to the typical village diet – whole grains, fruits, vegetables, walnuts and almonds, and mustard oil – and the rest were put on a standard (prudent) diet.
Those who were put on the village diet suffered far fewer heart problems than those on the conventional preventative diet.
So what’s the lesson? Apart from never leave the village, researchers think the village diet is rich in linolenic acid, and the combination of the different foods seem to work in combination to produce a strong, protective effect (Lancet, 2002; 360: 1455-61).
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