VA Finds Diets Allowing More Fat Might Reduce Diabetes, Other Ailments

Recommendations Urge Veterans to Eat A Variety of Foods

By Annette M. Boyle

Hanna Bloomfield, MD, MPH, core investigator at the VA’s Center for Chronic Disease Outcomes Research and associate chief of staff for Research & Development at the Minneapolis VA Health Care System.

Hanna Bloomfield, MD, MPH, core investigator at the VA’s Center for Chronic Disease Outcomes Research and associate chief of staff for Research & Development at the Minneapolis VA Health Care System.

MINNEAPOLIS—For 30 years, Americans have focused on reducing fat to lower their risk of diabetes and other chronic diseases. New research by the VA indicates that approach might be dead wrong.

“Low-fat diets are not the solution to the obesity epidemic in this country,” explained Hanna Bloomfield, MD, MPH, core investigator at the VA’s Center for Chronic Disease Outcomes Research and associate chief of staff for Research & Development at the Minneapolis VA Health Care System.

Instead, individuals concerned about healthy eating should focus more on other changes to their diet, Bloomfield told U.S. Medicine, adding that, “consuming more whole grains, monounsaturated fats, fruits, vegetables and legumes and avoiding refined grains and sugar are probably more important than reducing total fat intake.”

In a study recently published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, Bloomfield and her colleagues found some evidence from their review of dozens of randomized trials that “Mediterranean diets with no restriction on fat intake are associated with reductions in major clinical outcomes” including Type 2 diabetes mellitus as well as cardiovascular events and cancer.1

The study was funded by the VA’s Evidence-based Synthesis Program and Office of Quality and Performance in response to a request from VA’s National Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention and Primary Care Services. The VA sought to evaluate the implications of the Mediterranean diet for veteran health as a result of “the increased prevalence of obesity, diabetes and other chronic disease in the veteran population,” Bloomfield said.

About one-fourth of veterans who receive care through the VA have a diabetes diagnosis, nearly three times the rate seen in the general population, according to the VA. Those veterans also are twice as likely to develop cardiovascular disease compared to patients treated outside the VA, a study in the International Journal of Preventive Medicine found.2 Diabetes is itself a risk factor for cardiovascular disease.

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