We studied the ecologic relationships of food groups, macronutrients, eating patterns, and an a priori food pattern score (Mediterranean Adequacy Index: MAI) with long-term CHD mortality rates in the Seven Countries Study.
Sixteen cohorts (12,763 men aged 40-59 years) were enrolled in the 1960s in seven countries (US, Finland, The Netherlands, Italy, Greece, former Yugoslavia: Croatia/Serbia, Japan). Dietary surveys were carried out at baseline and only in a subsample of each cohort. The average food consumption of each cohort was chemically analyzed for individual fatty acids and carbohydrates.
Ecologic correlations of diet were computed across cohorts for 50-year CHD mortality rates; 97% of men had died in cohorts with 50-year follow-up. CHD death rates ranged 6.7-fold among cohorts. At baseline, hard fat was greatest in northern Europe, olive oil in Greece, meat in the US, sweet products in northern Europe and the US, and fish in Japan. The MAI was high in Mediterranean and Japanese cohorts. The 50-year CHD mortality rates of the cohorts were closely positively ecologically correlated (r = 0.68-0.92) with average consumption of hard fat, sweet products, animal foods, saturated fat, and sucrose, but not with naturally occurring sugars. Vegetable foods, starch, and the a priori pattern MAI were inversely correlated (r = -0.59 to -0.91) with CHD mortality rates.
Long-term CHD mortality rates had statistically significant ecologic correlations with several aspects of diet consumed in the 1960s, the traditional Mediterranean and Japanese patterns being rich in vegetable foods, and low in sweet products and animal foods.