Western Diet Ups Heart, Diabetes Risk
Burger, Fries, and a Diet Soda Are Culprits in Metabolic Syndrome
Jan. 22, 2008 -- Indulging in a typical Western diet of burgers, fries, and
diet soda boosts your risk of getting heart
disease and diabetes, a study shows.
And the amount of fast food the researchers linked to health problems may
surprise you. Just two burger patties a day and one daily diet soda
substantially boost the risk of getting metabolic syndrome, researcher Lyn M. Steffen, PhD,
MPH, RD, tells WebMD.
Metabolic syndrome, in turn, increases the risk of heart disease and
diabetes. For a diagnosis of metabolic syndrome, three of five criteria must be
present, including a large waistline, elevated blood
pressure, elevated fasting blood sugar, elevated fasting triglycerides, or reduced levels of HDL "good"
Western Diet vs. 'Prudent' Diet
"The Western diet increased risk by about 18% overall of getting
metabolic syndrome over nine years [of follow-up]," says Steffen, an
associate professor of epidemiology at the University of Minnesota,
Minneapolis, who followed more than 9,000 people for the research. She divided
them into those who ate a Western diet with those who ate a more prudent
Those who ate two or more servings of meat a day, or about two burger
patties, boosted their risk by 26% compared with those who only ate meat twice
a week, she found. "Diet soda, one can a day, increased risk by 34%,"
she says. Regular soda didn't significantly boost risk of getting metabolic
syndrome in this study, but Steffen notes that another recent study has linked
it to metabolic syndrome.
Fried foods also boosted the risk of getting metabolic syndrome, she says,
with those eating the most fried foods at 25% higher risk of getting the
syndrome than those eating the lowest amounts.
At the nine-year mark, about 40%, or nearly 4,000 participants, had three or
more criteria for metabolic syndrome, although none was diagnosed with it at
the study start.
Diet and Metabolic Syndrome: Study Details
Steffen and her colleagues evaluated the diet habits of the more than 9,500
men and women who were part of the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study by
looking at a 66-item food questionnaire. Participants were 45 to 64 when the
study started and were evaluated every three years over the nine-year
The Western diet followers ate refined grains, processed meat, red meat,
fried foods, eggs, and soda and not much fish, fruit, vegetables, or
The prudent diet followers ate more fruits, vegetables, fish, seafood,
poultry, whole grains, and low-fat dairy foods.
The researchers grouped the participants in each diet group into segments,
from those who ate the least amount of the foods studied to those who ate the
most servings. They also looked individually at how eating fried foods,
sweetened beverages such as regular soda, nuts, coffee, and diet soda affected
the risk of metabolic syndrome.
The study is published in the journal Circulation, an American Heart