Diet or Exercise – which helps protect the heart?


Which do you think helps keep the heart healthy for those overweight – exercising, dieting or both?

A Saint Louis University, USA study found it doesn’t matter which strategy you choose – it’s the resulting weight loss that is the protective secret sauce.

“For men and women with excess body weight, modest weight loss provides powerful protection against cardiovascular disease, regardless of whether weight loss is achieved by using exercise, a healthy low-calorie diet, or both,” said Edward Weiss, Ph.D., associate professor of nutrition and dietetics at Saint Louis University.

He and his team divided 52 overweight, middle-aged men and women into three groups – those who dieted, exercised or did both – and challenged them to lose 7% of their body weight in around three months. Those who exclusively dieted or exercised were told to decrease their food intake by 20% or increase their activity levels by 20%. Those who did both were told to eat 10% less and exercise 10% more.

Researchers then analysed the effect on symptoms that could lead to stroke or heart disease. All three approaches could help reduce risk of developing cardiovascular disease by 10% – from 46% to 36%.

And just because these healthy lifestyles might help, this does not mean it’s ok to eat junk food or drink more alcohol or sugary drinks.

“While our study did not find additive benefits of calorie restriction and exercise on traditional risk factors for cardiovascular disease, much of the actual risk of developing cardiovascular disease cannot be accounted for by traditional risk factors. Therefore, our findings don’t preclude the possibility that dieting and exercise have additive effects for reducing the likelihood of developing cardiovascular disease. Furthermore, an inactive lifestyle itself is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, although the physiologic mechanisms for this effect are unknown.”

Source: Saint Louis University