Traditional Chinese diet helps ward off heart disease

xidants in the beverage. Antioxidants, which are found in vitamins and foods, are thought to fight heart disease by counteracting oxygen free-radicals. Oxygen free-radicals are unstable molecules that can combine with cholesterol to form oxidized cholesterol. In this form, cholesterol is more likely to collect on the blood vessels, forming fatty deposits that lead to heart attacks and strokes.

Researchers studied 116 Chinese individuals ages 20 to 60. The group was 56 percent female and 44 percent male. Researchers used ultrasound, an imaging device that uses sound waves, to determine the thickness of the inner walls of the carotid arteries that feed blood to the brain. The study participants also answered questions about their dietary habits.

The combined thickness of the intima (lining) and media (middle muscle) layers of the carotid artery are considered a good indicator of heart disease. In healthy adults 65 or older, increased thickness correlates with a higher risk of heart attack and stroke, while in younger adults, with no symptoms of heart disease, thicker intima-media reflects the probable development of atherosclerosis.

The surveys revealed wide differences in eating patterns, especially in the consumption of meat. In Pan Yu, villagers consumed about 13 grams of meat protein daily per 1,000 calories, along with about 3 grams of dairy products and 151 grams of vegetables. (Thirty grams equal one U.S. ounce.) They also drank about 14 ounces per day of green tea.

In San Francisco, westernized Chinese consumed about 24 grams of meat protein, 51 grams of dairy products, 117 grams of vegetables and 37 milliliters, or less than a quarter-cup, of green tea daily per 1000-calorie intake.

The average carotid inner wall thickness was about one-fifth thinner among the Pan Yu participants than among those in San Francisco, says Woo. What do Chinese in Pan Yu eat? Typically, mornings start with congee -- a rice porridge -- Chi

Contact: Carole Bullock
American Heart Association

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