Potatoes and cereals increase the risk of heart disease while high fat dairy products cut the risk, according to a new study which rejects accepted wisdom on a healthy diet.
The research, which looked at dietary habits in 42 European countries over 16 years, conflicts with current government nutrition guidance and has led to calls for new advice to be issued.
The work, published in the journal of Food and Nutrition Research
, examined food consumption, heart disease
and cholesterol levels
in the most up-to-date international statistics and raised questions about the reliability of traditional data, much of which was carried out decades ago.
Dr Pavel Grasgruber, a sports scientist and lead author of the study, from Masaryk University in the Czech Republic, called for current dietary advice to be overturned.He said: "Current heart disease risk is based on flawed data. This study flies in the face of accepted wisdom on diet. It is quite clear consumption of dairy products and meat is not linked with heart disease risk, as was traditionally believed.
"The biggest problem are cereals, wheat and potatoes, which increase the risk of heart disease. I can responsibly recommend people change their diets and to lower their carbohydrate load."Dr Grasgruber said red meat appeared to have no direct effect on heart disease risk.
However, high fat dairy products such as cheese seem to have a protective effect, which is also supported by recent evidence.
He recommended high consumption of citrus fruit, walnuts, olives, fish, vegetables and dairy for low heart disease risk and longevity.
Current UK dietary guidelines introduced in 1983 advised people to eat more carbohydrates including pasta, potatoes and cereals and less fat, particularly saturated fat.
However, in recent years some experts have challenged this notion linking the epidemic of type 2 diabetes and obesity to a diet rich in carbohydrates.Leading cardiologist Dr Aseem Malhotra said: "This modern day study supports the growing view that the real dietary factors driving heart disease are the consumption of excess carbohydrate in the form of rice, wheat and potato."
Dr Malcolm Kendrick, who has studied heart health and is the author of The Great Cholesterol Con
, said: "The rate of heart disease goes down with a high cholesterol diet which suggests any link between fat, cholesterol and heart disease can now be refuted."Dr Trudi Deakin, a leading nutritionist, said: "The 1983 dietary guidelines came in the absence of any rigorous trial data to show saturated fat caused cardiovascular disease and were based on flawed science from the 1950s and 1960s."
Dr Mike Knapton, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation, said: "Other studies, however, show diets high in saturated fat are linked to raised cholesterol levels, which is a risk factor for heart disease."
He urged a balanced Mediterranean diet.