Healthier diet tied to better physical fitness in middle-aged adults

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Disclosures:
Mi reports no relevant financial disclosures. Please see the study for all other authors’ relevant financial disclosures.
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Key takeaways:

A high-quality diet may be tied to better cardiorespiratory fitness, independent of age, sex, total daily energy intake, CV risk factors and physical activity, according to a study published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.

“This study provides some of the strongest and most rigorous data thus far to support the connection that better diets may lead to higher fitness,” Michael Y. Mi, MD, cardiologist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, said in a press release. “The improvement in fitness we observed in participants with better diets was similar to the effect of taking 4,000 more steps each day.

“In middle-aged adults, healthy dietary patterns were strongly and favorably associated with fitness even after taking habitual activity levels into account,” Mi said.

For this analysis, Mi and colleagues evaluated indices of dietary health among 2,380 community-dwelling participants in the Framingham Heart Study with maximum effort cardiopulmonary exercise test measures, including peak VO2, autonomic function, O2 uptake kinetics and pulmonary vascular function (mean age, 54 years; 54% women; mean BMI, 28 kg/m2). Dietary patterns were assessed using the Alternative Healthy Eating Index, Mediterranean-style diet score and fasting blood concentrations of 201 metabolites.

After adjusting for age, sex, total daily energy intake, CV risk factors and physical activity, the researchers reported that every 1 standard deviation increase in the Alternative Healthy Eating Index was associated with a 5.2% increase in peak VO2 (95% CI, 4.3-6; P < .0001) and a 4.5% increase in peak VO2 for every 1 standard deviation increase in Mediterranean-style diet score (95% CI, 3.6-5.3; P < .0001).

Increased Alternative Healthy Eating index and Mediterranean-style diet score was also associated with improved autonomic function, O2 uptake kinetics and pulmonary vascular function, according to the study.

Moreover, the effect estimate of diet quality score on peak VO2 was higher among participants younger than 54 years, and the researchers observed no effect attenuation by sex or BMI.

Among 1,154 Framingham Heart Study participants who underwent metabolite profiling, the researchers identified 24 metabolites associated with dietary indices and peak VO2, with a false discovery rate of less than 5%.

Mi and colleagues identified metabolites associated with lower cardiorespiratory fitness and poorer dietary quality, including C6 and C7 carnitines, C16:0 ceramide and dimethylguanidino valeric acid. Metabolites associated with higher cardiorespiratory fitness and better dietary quality included C38:7 phosphatidylcholine plasmalogen and C38:7 and C40:7 phosphatidylethanolamine plasmalogens, according the study.

“There are already many compelling health reasons to consume a high-quality diet, and we provide yet another one with its association with fitness,” Mi said in the release. “A Mediterranean-style diet with fresh, whole foods and minimal processed foods, red meat and alcohol is a great place to start.”

Reference:

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