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Food As Medicine Cardio-Vascular Cholesterol Diet

Weekly Fresh Produce Improved Diet, Physical Activity And Reduced Risk Factors For CVD

3 months, 4 weeks ago

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Posted on Mar 26, 2024, 3 p.m.

Programs, such as the Recipe4 Health program, that provide free, weekly home delivery of fresh fruits and vegetables from local farms helped to improve the nutritional levels, physical activity levels, and risk factors for cardiovascular disease (CVD) of the participants in preliminary research that was presented at the American Heart Association’s (AHA) Epidemiology and Prevention Lifestyle and Cardiometabolic Scientific Sessions 2024. 

“We all know that eating healthier foods, like fruits and vegetables, is good for you, however, sometimes we focus too much on finding a simple solution rather than taking small, preventative measures to improve health,” said lead study author Lisa Goldman Rosas, Ph.D., M.P.H., an assistant professor in the department of epidemiology and population health and the department of medicine at Stanford School of Medicine in Palo Alto, California. “’Food as Medicine’ programs, such as the Recipe4Health program we studied, aim to shift the focus to ensuring a healthy diet including fresh fruits and vegetables is consistently accessible and affordable to all people to help improve health outcomes.”

As part of the AHA’s Health Care by Food™ initiative, for this study, 5,286 participants with an average age of 51 years old were surveyed before and after the study about their lifestyle, diet, food security, insecurity, funding, income, how often they run out of food, and other relevant questions. 45% of the participants were diagnosed with coronary heart disease and close to half were diagnosed with high cholesterol levels before enrollment. Recipe4 Health provided free weekly home deliveries of locally grown produce to adults who were receiving care at one of the local Federally Qualified Health Centers in Alameda County, California for 16 weeks which contained about 16 servings of fresh fruits and vegetables. 

The first analysis revealed that participants increased their fruit and vegetable intake by a half serving per day, increased physical activity by almost 42 minutes a week, and experienced less food insecurity to 48% after the program ended from 58% at enrollment. 

“I was really excited to see that providing patients with a modest amount of locally grown produce resulted in improvements in food insecurity, diet, and indicators of cardiovascular health. This study took place during the COVID-19 pandemic, when many of these outcomes were worsening, especially among patients receiving care at Federally Qualified Health Centers that were disproportionately impacted,” Rosas said.

The second analysis, using electronic health records, revealed changes in the risk factors for cardiovascular disease one year after enrollment in the fresh produce program, which ended after 16 weeks. After comparing the participants in this Recipe4Health program to their peers at other Federally Qualified Health Centers in the same county who were not getting free deliveries of fresh produce, those in the produce program had significantly higher decreases in cholesterol levels, and an average reduction in HbA1c levels of 0.37% in those with type 2 diabetes, but there were no notable changes in blood pressure or BMI. 

“It is possible that additional strategies are needed to change body mass index and blood pressure. Additional strategies may include behavioral interventions and pharmacotherapy in conjunction with a Food as Medicine program,” Rosas said.

“This research demonstrates the potential for a food prescription, accessible through a health care visit, to improve health outcomes for significant portions of the U.S. population,” said Kevin Volpp, M.D., Ph.D., the Mark V. Pauly Professor at the Perelman School of Medicine and the Wharton School, director of the Penn Center for Health Incentives and Behavioral Economics and research lead for the Association’s Health Care by Food™ initiative.  “A coordinated research approach is needed to more systematically and rigorously define how well food is medicine interventions prevent and treat disease compared to standard medical care.”

As with anything you read on the internet, this article should not be construed as medical advice; please talk to your doctor or primary care provider before changing your wellness routine. This article is not intended to provide a medical diagnosis, recommendation, treatment, or endorsement. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. 

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