Cardiovascular Disease: Let's Talk Fat, Fiber, and Sodium


The Fat Fibre Sodium Score was created using the top three most predictable cardiovascular risk-reducing food categories and offers a quick, easy way to evaluate nutrition changes during post-cardiac rehabilitation.

Improving your diet doesn’t necessarily mean giving up that once-a-week dessert indulgence; but loading up on sodium and failing to add fresh produce to your meals promotes cardiovascular disease. A new tool to measure diet behavior was introduced that could be implemented into office practice and become especially useful in cardiac rehab.

The Fat Fibre Sodium Score was created using the top three most predictable cardiovascular risk-reducing food categories, which are spelled out in the program’s name. The idea behind it is that it’s a quick, easy way to evaluate nutrition changes during post-cardiac rehabilitation (PCR). Wanda Firth, from Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre in Nova Scotia, Canada, displayed the research during a poster session at the American Heart Association 2015 Scientific Sessions (AHA 2015) in Orlando, Florida.

In 2006, Firth and colleagues created the Hearts in Motion Healthy Eating Stages of Change program. Its purpose was to determine if patients were ready to make more health conscious food choices in five different nutrition categories. While it showed valid results, it was not exactly easy to cross over into a clinical setting. Therefore, they developed the Fat Fibre Sodium Score which gives patients the opportunity to report habits while also working with a dietician for professional evaluation. A total of 390 patients who had been in the earlier program were enrolled in the upgraded one which concentrated on fat, fiber, and sodium intake.

“What we found with the one-hour sessions with the dietician was the people who were most ready to change were the ones who did,” Firth told MD Magazine. Those who seemed more confident and reported being ready to make changes were the ones who achieved low fat, high fiber, and low sodium eating.

“People had the highest confidence in add-on foods,” Firth explained, meaning that it seemed like it would be easier to add fiber rather than cutting out the fat and sodium.

The results revealed that fiber intake climbed from 19g per day to 27g per day with the use of the program. Also, eight out of 10 patients self-reported nutrition matched 100% with the dietician’s evaluation.

“People underreported their fat intake,” Firth said. Many patients did not realize how much fat they were actually consuming; however, the assessment category was validated because intake went from moderate to low. Furthermore, patients with the low fat scores also had statistically significant weight loss and lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL) levels, aka, the bad cholesterol.

Sodium outcomes, however, were marked as “not so good.” Even so, the team concluded that the Fat Fibre Sodium Score is a valid and easy way to assess which could be of value in a clinical setting — especially in cardiac rehab and prevention programs.

What’s next for cardiovascular disease prevention through proper diet? Firth said that they plan to implement sugar as the fourth category in the tool. However, since sodium did not work out that well, they’re also going to dive deeper to figure out why not.

Meanwhile, it wouldn’t hurt to add an extra spoonful of vegetables to your meals today… for your heart’s sake, that is.

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