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A review study looked at how healthy and unhealthy diets affect risk factors for cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes in adolescents.

Risk factors for developing heart disease or type 2 diabetes include being overweight, having elevated blood pressure, and raised blood insulin or blood triglycerides. These factors are collectively known as cardiometabolic risk factors. Cardiometabolic risk factors are increasing in young people, and many are related to having an unhealthy diet.

Researchers in Brazil performed a systematic review of published studies to investigate how having a healthy or unhealthy diet affects cardiometabolic risk factors in adolescents. They recently published their findings in the British Journal of Nutrition.

The researchers performed an extensive search of the medical literature to identify observational studies that included measurements of any cardiometabolic risk factors and dietary patterns in healthy adolescents. They found 19 studies that met their criteria and included these in a combined review and analysis. In particular, they looked at the effects of diet on waist circumference, body mass index, blood pressure, blood glucose, and blood lipids.

They found that unhealthy diets seemed to be linked to the poorest values of cardiometabolic risk factors among adolescents. They also found that the highest intake of unhealthy food was linked to a higher average body mass index, compared to a low intake of unhealthy foods.

On the other hand, there was no clear evidence of a protective effect of a healthy diet. Dietary patterns with a low intake of healthy foods were linked to a lower average body mass index and waist circumference.

The researchers remarked that the results of this combined analysis should be interpreted carefully, as they were based on a small number of studies that used different methods. They concluded that unhealthy diets may affect cardiometabolic risk factors in adolescents, but further studies are needed to clarify the relationship.

Written by Julie McShane, Medical Writer

Reference: De Magalhaes Cunha C, Costa PR, de Oliveira LPM, et al. Dietary patterns and cardiometabolic risk factors among adolescents: systematic review and meta-analysis. British Journal of Nutrition (2018), 119, 859-879. Doi:10.1017/S0007114518000533.

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