Traditional Chinese diet helps ward off heart disease

ATLANTA, Nov. 10 -- Westernized Chinese are moving away from the traditional diet rich in vegetables and green tea, and instead adopting the typical "American diet" that contains larger amounts of animal fats -- a dietary shift that may be increasing their risk of heart disease and stroke. That's according to a study presented today at the American Heart Association Scientific Sessions.

Villagers in Pan Yu, a town in Guangdong Province in southern China, emphasize the traditional Chinese diet of vegetables, rice and green tea, says Kam S. Woo, M.D., professor and consultant cardiologist at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Woo believes it is no coincidence that the area also has one of the lowest rates of heart disease in the world.

In a new study, westernized Chinese individuals in Hong Kong, Sydney, Australia, and San Francisco, Calif., had thicker inner walls in their carotid arteries (located in the neck) than study participants in Pan Yu -- a sign that the westernized Chinese study participants are developing atherosclerosis, a thickening of artery walls often accompanied by fatty plaque blockages that, together, increase the risk of heart attack and stroke.

Woo says the message in the study is that Chinese and non-Chinese alike should recognize the protective effects of a traditional Chinese diet.

"Perhaps people need to eat more fruits and vegetables, emphasize plant proteins and eat less dairy products and meat," he says. "They should also consider adopting a Chinese way of cooking, which involves lots of steaming as opposed to deep frying in oil."

While these dietary recommendations are similar to those of health organizations, including the American Heart Association, the Chinese diet also includes tofu and green tea, components whose heart-protecting effects are still uncertain.

Researchers are not sure how green tea might protect against heart disease. But Woo says it may have something to do with the antio

Contact: Carole Bullock
American Heart Association

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