Background and aims: Dietary habits have been associated with cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factors. This study aimed at evaluating the association of non-predefined dietary patterns with CVD risk profile and C-reactive protein (CRP).
Methods and results: We analyzed 7646 healthy subjects from the Moli-sani project, an on-going cross-sectional cohort study of men and women aged >or=35, randomly recruited from a general Italian population. The Italian EPIC food frequency questionnaire was used. Food patterns were generated using principal factor analysis (PFA) and reduced rank regression (RRR). Three dietary patterns were identified by PFA. The "Olive Oil and Vegetables" pattern, characterized by high intake of olive oil, vegetables, legumes, soups, fruits and fish, was associated with relatively lower values of glucose, lipids, CRP, blood pressure and individual global CVD risk score. The "Pasta and Meat" pattern, characterized by high intake of pasta, tomato sauce, red meat, animal fats and alcohol, was positively associated with glucose, lipids, CRP and CVD risk score. The "Eggs and Sweets" pattern, characterized by positive loadings of eggs, processed meat, margarines, butter, sugar and sweets, was associated with high values of CRP. The first RRR pattern was similar to the "Pasta and Meat" pattern both in composition and association with CVD risk profile.
Conclusions: In a large healthy Italian population, non-predefined dietary patterns including foods considered to be rather unhealthy, were associated with higher levels of cardiovascular risk factors, CRP and individual global CVD risk, whereas a "prudent-healthy" pattern was associated with lower levels.