If you're not sure of the best way to improve your cardiovascular health, results of a US study suggest that it doesn't matter whether you choose to improve your diet, fitness, or both, as long as you lose weight.
Carried out by a team from St Louis University, the researchers recruited 52 overweight, middle-aged men and women and divided participants into three groups:
All participants were then set the task of losing around 7 percent of their body weight over a 12-14 week period.
To do so those in the diet group were told to eat a healthy diet and reduce their food intake by 20 percent, while those in the exercise group were told to increase their physical activity levels by 20 percent. Participants who both dieted and exercised were told to reduce food intake by 10 percent and up their activity levels also by 10 percent.
The team then looked at how the three different weight loss methods affected various indicators of cardiovascular health, including blood pressure, heart rate and levels of high, also known as "bad," cholesterol. The results showed that modest weight loss resulting from any of the three methods had a powerful and beneficial effect on the risk of cardiovascular disease, with each of the three methods observed to be equally effective, reducing an individuals' risk of developing cardiovascular disease in their lifetime from 46 percent to 36 percent, based on these indicators.
However although choosing either to diet or exercise can both have a beneficial effect on heart health, lead author of the study Edward Weiss pointed out that with previous research showing that each method has its own health benefits a combination of both healthy eating and exercise is still the preferred option, and the findings of the study should not be interpreted as a green light to indulge in junk food or lead a sedentary lifestyle.
The findings can be found online published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.