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Dec 12 (HeartCenterOnline) - A new study confirms the beneficial role of nutrition counselors as part of a heart patient's medical team. The study appears in the December 2002 issue of the Annals of Behavioral Medicine.
Food is the fuel that provides the human body with the nutrients and energy required for healthy function. Food is more than essential, however. For many, it is truly enjoyed on an emotional level - to be savored as an experience and viewed as a work of art.
Unfortunately, food has been linked to both emotional and physical problems. From an emotional perspective, food can be used to fill a feeling of emptiness or to gain a sense of control, sometimes leading to eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa. From a physical perspective, the quality of one's diet can be a powerful contributor to the development of many diseases, of which heart-related problems are among the most serious. Diets that are high in cholesterol, saturated fats and trans fats greatly increase the risk of atherosclerosis, high blood pressure (hypertension) and obesity.
Experts say that heart health depends on getting the right nutrients into the body - nutrients that nourish vital organs like the heart muscle and help the body to perform necessary functions, such as maintaining normal blood flow or breaking down substances into small particles that the body can use and/or dispose of easily.
Researchers have found, however, that people with high cholesterol or heart-unhealthy diets do not always practice what is preached. Therefore, the current study sought to investigate the impact of "nutrition therapy" on adopting and maintaining lifestyle changes as they relate to diet.
Ninety individuals with high cholesterol were separated into two groups. One received standard medical care from their physicians. The other received medical care plus visits with a registered dietitian or nutrition professional. People in this latter group were given printed information and personalized counseling on ways to incorporate low fat recipes and cholesterol-reducing strategies into their daily routine.
After six months, those undergoing nutrition counseling reported significantly higher satisfaction about their overall care, health, appearance and eating habits. This was evidenced by a reduction in cholesterol levels and even greater weight loss compared to the "standard" medical care group. This proved to be a pleasant surprise for the researchers, who feared that an individual may be too resistant to change his or her lifestyle. Registered dietitian Linda M. Delahanty, M.S., of the Diabetes Center of Massachusetts General Hospital, said, "Contrary to popular belief, there is no apparent reduction, but rather an improvement in some measures of quality of life and patient satisfaction with medical nutritional therapy for high cholesterol."
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