Background: Endothelial dysfunction is one of the mechanisms linking diet and the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Objective: We evaluated the hypothesis that dietary patterns (summary measures of food consumption) are directly associated with markers of inflammation and endothelial dysfunction, particularly C-reactive protein (CRP), interleukin 6, E-selectin, soluble intercellular adhesion molecule 1 (sICAM-1), and soluble vascular cell adhesion molecule 1 (sVCAM-1).
Design: We conducted a cross-sectional study of 732 women from the Nurses' Health Study I cohort who were 43-69 y of age and free of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and diabetes mellitus at the time of blood drawing in 1990. Dietary intake was documented by using a validated food-frequency questionnaire in 1986 and 1990. Dietary patterns were generated by using factor analysis.
Results: A prudent pattern was characterized by higher intakes of fruit, vegetables, legumes, fish, poultry, and whole grains, and a Western pattern was characterized by higher intakes of red and processed meats, sweets, desserts, French fries, and refined grains. The prudent pattern was inversely associated with plasma concentrations of CRP (P = 0.02) and E-selectin (P = 0.001) after adjustment for age, body mass index (BMI), physical activity, smoking status, and alcohol consumption. The Western pattern showed a positive relation with CRP (P < 0.001), interleukin 6 (P = 0.006), E-selectin (P < 0.001), sICAM-1 (P < 0.001), and sVCAM-1 (P = 0.008) after adjustment for all confounders except BMI; with further adjustment for BMI, the coefficients remained significant for CRP (P = 0.02), E-selectin (P < 0.001), sICAM-1 (P = 0.002), and sVCAM-1 (P = 0.02).
Conclusion: Because endothelial dysfunction is an early step in the development of atherosclerosis, this study suggests a mechanism for the role of dietary patterns in the pathogenesis of cardiovascular disease.