Some foods protect against heart disease

There may well be some such foods. In industrialised countries like Australia most heart disease is coronary heart disease which refers to narrowing of the coronary arteries by a process called atherosclerosis, commonly referred to as 'hardening of the arteries' (which in fact may be contributed to by other processes). An inadequate blood flow to the heart muscle can lead to angina (chest pain coming from the heart), death of heart muscle (myocardial infarction), abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias) or heart failure (cardiac failure).

Mostly we think about heart disease and diet in relation to what it does to the blood cholesterol levels, and how this in turn can contribute to cholesterol deposition in the walls of arteries causing them to narrow. But diet can also influence coronary heart disease by affecting:

One dietary approach to preventing heart disease is to reduce saturated fat (see WHAT WE KNOW ABOUT CHOLESTEROL) in the diet and thereby decrease the amount of cholesterol in blood. Other food factors that may be helpful in lowering blood cholesterol levels include:

(a) the 'omega-6' type (found in seeds and oils or margarines produced from them - see WHAT WE KNOW ABOUT CHOLESTEROL)
(b) the 'omega-3' type (found in fish and fish oils or lean meat).

In addition, consuming a low sodium, high potassium diet, and eating more unrefined plant foods like fresh fruit and salads in general, may help to prevent heart disease by acting on factors other than blood cholesterol. One sixteen-year study of London men showed that eating bread, especially wholemeal bread, reduced the risk of heart disease, although its use did not appear to be associated with a lowering of their blood cholesterol.

Inclusion of fish regularly in the diet also seems to reduce risk of coronary heart disease, to an extent that exceeds the expected benefit from just the 'omega-3' fatty acids they contain.

For prevention of coronary heart disease, the total diet must be considered, not just one or two aspects.