Etiologic effects and optimal intakes of foods and nutrients for risk of cardiovascular diseases and diabetes: Systematic reviews and meta-analyses from the Nutrition and Chronic Diseases Expert Group (NutriCoDE)

PLoS One. 2017 Apr 27;12(4):e0175149. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0175149. eCollection 2017.


Background: Dietary habits are major contributors to coronary heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. However, comprehensive evaluation of etiologic effects of dietary factors on cardiometabolic outcomes, their quantitative effects, and corresponding optimal intakes are not well-established.

Objective: To systematically review the evidence for effects of dietary factors on cardiometabolic diseases, including comprehensively assess evidence for causality; estimate magnitudes of etiologic effects; evaluate heterogeneity and potential for bias in these etiologic effects; and determine optimal population intake levels.

Methods: We utilized Bradford-Hill criteria to assess probable or convincing evidence for causal effects of multiple diet-cardiometabolic disease relationships. Etiologic effects were quantified from published or de novo meta-analyses of prospective studies or randomized clinical trials, incorporating standardized units, dose-response estimates, and heterogeneity by age and other characteristics. Potential for bias was assessed in validity analyses. Optimal intakes were determined by levels associated with lowest disease risk.

Results: We identified 10 foods and 7 nutrients with evidence for causal cardiometabolic effects, including protective effects of fruits, vegetables, beans/legumes, nuts/seeds, whole grains, fish, yogurt, fiber, seafood omega-3s, polyunsaturated fats, and potassium; and harms of unprocessed red meats, processed meats, sugar-sweetened beverages, glycemic load, trans-fats, and sodium. Proportional etiologic effects declined with age, but did not generally vary by sex. Established optimal population intakes were generally consistent with observed national intakes and major dietary guidelines. In validity analyses, the identified effects of individual dietary components were similar to quantified effects of dietary patterns on cardiovascular risk factors and hard endpoints.

Conclusions: These novel findings provide a comprehensive summary of causal evidence, quantitative etiologic effects, heterogeneity, and optimal intakes of major dietary factors for cardiometabolic diseases, informing disease impact estimation and policy planning and priorities.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cardiovascular Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / etiology*
  • Chronic Disease / epidemiology
  • Diabetes Complications / epidemiology*
  • Diabetes Complications / etiology*
  • Diet / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Nutritional Status*
  • Risk Factors