European researchers are attempting to discover whether moving to a different country and changing diet can alter the risk of developing cardiovascular disease (CVD) using population studies from Italy, Belgium and the UK.
Cardiovascular diseases are the major cause of death in Europeans, but risk is not evenly distributed across Europe For example, the rate of CVD in the UK is three times that in Italy, while Belgians are twice as likely to suffer as their Italian counterparts.
Previous studies have shown that the low rate of CVD in Mediterranean populations was associated with the diets there - such as the low consumption of saturated fatty acids (found in butter, cream, pies and pastries) and consumption of red wine with meals.
But this Mediterranean diet is becoming increasingly uncommon in the Mediterranean itself, with Italians and other southern Europeans adopting more northern European food habits over the last 20 years. This, in turn, has been reflected in an increase in the prevalence of obesity. Paradoxically, populations in Northern Europe, with higher prevalence of CVD, are moving towards a more Mediterranean-style diet, for example by using more olive oil.
This change in eating habits means that the impact of diet on the CVD risk profile among European populations needs to be re-evaluated. This is the reason for the Immidiet project, a research programme co-ordinated by scientists at the Department of Vascular Medicine and Pharmacology at Consorzio Mario Negri Sud in Italy and part of the Flair-Flow programme run by the European Union.
Researchers will evaluate the present dietary habits of three European communities (the UK, Belgium and Italy) at different risk of myocardial infarction (MI). The impact of migration on risk factors for MI will be evaluated from Italian migration to Belgium and the integration of the two populations will be considered as a model of gene-environment interaction.
Data is now being collected, including measurements of diet composition, biomarkers of food intake (fatty acids, selenium and zinc), anthropometric variables, and many others, the researchers said.
It is anticipated that the study will facilitate CVD prevention campaigns in Belgium, Italy and the UK specifically by involving general practitioners (GPs) through whom primary prevention can be implemented.More information about the project can be found on its website or from project co-ordinator Dr Licia Iacoviello.