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Reported November 10, 2003

Exercise, not Calories, Prevents Heart Disease

(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- Everywhere we turn, we hear eating less can reduce our risk of a heart attack.

Maybe not, report researchers who conducted the first long-term study to evaluate the impact diet and exercise play in the development of cardiovascular disease (CVD).

They find the lowest rates of CVD among people who not only exercise the most but eat the most as well.

The study involved nearly 9,800 people who enrolled in a large health and nutrition study between 1971 and 1975. All reported caloric intake, recreation exercise, and body mass index over 17 years of follow-up. By the end of the study, around 1,500 of the people had died of heart disease. After adjusting for BMI and physical activity, no link was found between caloric intake and risk of CVD death. Instead, researchers found the lowest risk of CVD death -- less than half that of the highest risk -- among those who ate more and exercised more. These individuals were also leaner than those with higher risks, who tended to exercise less, eat less, and be overweight.

The authors write, “Together these data suggest that caloric intake is not the exclusive, or perhaps even primary, determinant of CVD outcome, but must be considered in the context of energy expenditure and BMI ... a focus on increasing energy expenditure, rather than reducing caloric intake, may offer the most productive behavioral strategy by which to extend healthy life.”

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SOURCE: American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 2003;25(4):283-289

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