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Eat right and avoid loneliness.

Eat right and avoid loneliness

The American Heart Association (AHA) this week launched a new program to help consumers identify heart-healthy foods. Processed foods meeting AHA standards for low levels of total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium will carry the association's seal of approval. In advocating product approval, the AHA cited the "increasing clarity" of scientific evidence linking diet modification with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.

Many Americans have adopted healthier eating habits since the AHA issued its first dietary recommendations in the early 1960s and this "played a part in the welcome decline in heart attacks and stroke death rates that we have seen during the past two decades," board chairman W. W. Aston says.

The new AHA effort was prompted by nationwide surveys showing Americans want more specific information about the fat and cholesterol content of foods. The program, supported entirely by fees assessed to participating companies, won't begin for at least a year. Independent laboratories will evaluate the content of foods submitted for analysis, and product approval will require verification by two laboratories.

A consumer education program will provide health professionals and the public with information on nutrition and cardiovascular-disease risk factors, including smoking and high blood pressure. The AHA says it wants to combat the confusing claims made about foods in labeling and advertising, and to improve the quality of those claims.

While AHA's logo on approved foods may prove helpful to those who do not want to add up the grams of fat and milligrams of sodium on labels, some caution is advised. "I'm afraid people will look at the approved foods and assume they are flawless, and not realize they are only okay if you follow the whole heart association plan," says Bonnie Liebman, director of nutrition at the Center for Science in the Public Interest in Washington, D.C. "Someone might see the seal on a margarine or oil and think they can eat as much as they want."

Other food for thought comes with a long-term Swedish study that points to social isolation as a risk factor in fatal heart disease. Kristina Orth-Gomer of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm collected data on 150 middle-aged men, including clinical symptoms of coronary artery disease, marital status, education, occupation, social activities, smoking, alcohol consumption and personality. Three groups emerged: apparently healthy men, symptomless men with recognized risk factors and men with signs of heart disease.

Twenty of the men died of coronary artery disease during the 10-year study. Orth-Gomer analyzed factors having independent effects and determined that those most likely to die either suffered from arrhythmias or were socially isolated; smoking, alcohol and exercise did not appear to be factors. Survivors, she observed, also took part in a social activity -- such as card playing or bowling -- at least once a week. A report on the findings will be published in ACTA MEDICA SCANDINAVICA.

Previous study has linked social isolation with increased mortality from heart disease, but that work included only post-illness data. It remains to be explained specifically how isolation affects mortality. The Swedish researchers plan next to study the relationship between behavior, hormones and cardiovascular disease.
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Author:Eron, Carol
Publication:Science News
Date:Jul 2, 1988
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