Dietary and Policy Priorities for Cardiovascular Disease, Diabetes, and Obesity: A Comprehensive Review.

Circulation. 2016;133(2):187-225

Plain language summary

Diet-related cardiometabolic conditions, such as heart disease and diabetes, pose a significant health and economic burden across the world. In recent years, scientific advances and research have generated enormous insights, yet there remain many controversies and unanswered questions. This extensive review summarizes recent evidence of key-dietary components and their impact on cardiometabolic health. Amongst the topics covered are dietary patterns, food quality and processing, genetics, personalized nutrition, supplements, functional foods and the existing knowledge on selected food groups such as carbohydrates, meat and fats alongside relevant vitamins, minerals and plant compounds. The author highlights how an oversimplified concept of nutrition from previous decades, has led to an array of conflicting advice and undermined the nuanced and complex impact that diet and nutrition can have on the body. Thus in light of the evidence, food-based interventions and dietary patterns are suggested as favourable, with less focus on dietary components in isolation. Throughout the paper, the need for adjunct support to facilitate sustainable health-promoting behaviour changes is recognized. Calling for additional measures to address behaviour change, health systems reforms, targeting socioeconomic inequalities, employing novel technologies, and adequate policymaking. This overview of recent evidence yields a comprehensive source of information, worthwhile reviewing when designing personalised diet plans in support of cardiometabolic health.


Suboptimal nutrition is a leading cause of poor health. Nutrition and policy science have advanced rapidly, creating confusion yet also providing powerful opportunities to reduce the adverse health and economic impacts of poor diets. This review considers the history, new evidence, controversies, and corresponding lessons for modern dietary and policy priorities for cardiovascular diseases, obesity, and diabetes mellitus. Major identified themes include the importance of evaluating the full diversity of diet-related risk pathways, not only blood lipids or obesity; focusing on foods and overall diet patterns, rather than single isolated nutrients; recognizing the complex influences of different foods on long-term weight regulation, rather than simply counting calories; and characterizing and implementing evidence-based strategies, including policy approaches, for lifestyle change. Evidence-informed dietary priorities include increased fruits, nonstarchy vegetables, nuts, legumes, fish, vegetable oils, yogurt, and minimally processed whole grains; and fewer red meats, processed (eg, sodium-preserved) meats, and foods rich in refined grains, starch, added sugars, salt, and trans fat. More investigation is needed on the cardiometabolic effects of phenolics, dairy fat, probiotics, fermentation, coffee, tea, cocoa, eggs, specific vegetable and tropical oils, vitamin D, individual fatty acids, and diet-microbiome interactions. Little evidence to date supports the cardiometabolic relevance of other popular priorities: eg, local, organic, grass-fed, farmed/wild, or non-genetically modified. Evidence-based personalized nutrition appears to depend more on nongenetic characteristics (eg, physical activity, abdominal adiposity, gender, socioeconomic status, culture) than genetic factors. Food choices must be strongly supported by clinical behavior change efforts, health systems reforms, novel technologies, and robust policy strategies targeting economic incentives, schools and workplaces, neighborhood environments, and the food system. Scientific advances provide crucial new insights on optimal targets and best practices to reduce the burdens of diet-related cardiometabolic diseases.

Lifestyle medicine

Environmental Inputs : Diet ; Nutrients
Personal Lifestyle Factors : Nutrition
Functional Laboratory Testing : Not applicable

Methodological quality

Jadad score : Not applicable
Allocation concealment : Not applicable