Research Shows CrossFit Diet/Exercise Reduces Risk of Heart Disease." Cool.

“Research Shows CrossFit Diet/Exercise Reduces Risk of Heart Disease”.  An article in Google News had this headline. Could that be true? Probably. A diet low in refined carbohydrates and high in vegetables and fruit, as well as an active lifestyle has long been associated with reduced risk of death and disease. However, no scientific research as been published on relationships between CrossFit training and cardiovascular disease. If one were to do a search today on Web of Knowledge using the search term “Crossfit” you would get a single hit:

Jansen, J., van Dam, N., Hoefsloot, H., & Smilde, A. (2009). Crossfit analysis: a novel method to characterize the dynamics of induced plant responses BMC Bioinformatics, 10 (1) DOI: 10.1186/1471-2105-10-425.

Summer Rogers of CrossFit Seven in Fort Worth is encouraged by a Master CrossFit-ter

I’m sure the intentions of whoever wrote the article (which turned out to be a press release by a box in California. Not sure why they paid to do this but to each his/her own) were good . . . but . . . their interpretation of the research is quite a stretch. Stretching and far-fetchedness probably hurt the cause as much as they help. Still, interesting that it made it into Google News. The research the author discusses has nothing to do with CrossFit. The press release does, however, attempt to associate a high-fat diet with lower incidence of cardiovascular disease by comparing incidence of disease between residents of Switzerland and Australian aboriginals living in modern Australia.

The claim was that a high-fat dining Swiss have less cardiovascular disease than the presumed low-fat dining Australian Aboriginals and that, therefore, high-fat diets are healthier than low-fat diets. There are also obviously many other differences between the Swiss and the Aboriginals (differences in poverty levels, availability of lederhosen and differences in other possibly important variables like intake of strong coffee and chocolate).

I have not looked up the statistics for the Swiss, but Australian Aboriginals have been suffering increasing rates of cardiovascular disease over at least the last 30 years. They are also suffering from increasing obesity and diabetes just like so much of the rest of the world. However, few modern Aboriginals are likely to be following a traditional Aboriginal diet. It is extremely unlikely that the increasing rate of heart disease observed in Australian Aboriginals has been caused by low intake of dietary fat. The increased incidence of cardiovascular disease in Aboriginals may be due to genetic vulnerability and a change to a Western-type diet but extremely unlikely to be caused by a low-fat diet (especially since they are not eating this way anymore anyway).   An Australian aboriginal is still less likely to die from heart disease than an Australian of European ancestry, but that may be in part because Aboriginals are more likely to fall to a violent or accidental death.

The Press release did not provide a reference.  I think this is the original article but I’m not sure.  In any case it has some very interesting things to say if you are interested in learning more about relationships between cholesterol and risk of cardiovascular disease.

Rowley K, Walker KZ, Cohen J, Jenkins AJ, O’Neal D, Su Q, Best JD, & O’Dea K (2003). Inflammation and vascular endothelial activation in an Aboriginal population: relationships to coronary disease risk factors and nutritional markers. The Medical journal of Australia, 178 (10), 495-500 PMID: 12741936

O’Dea K (1991). Westernisation, insulin resistance and diabetes in Australian aborigines. The Medical journal of Australia, 155 (4), 258-64 PMID: 1875844 Petursson H, Sigurdsson JA, Bengtsson C, Nilsen TI, & Getz L (2012). Is the use of cholesterol in mortality risk algorithms in clinical guidelines valid? Ten years prospective data from the Norwegian HUNT 2 study. Journal of evaluation in clinical practice, 18 (4), 927-928 PMID: 22639974


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