Diet and 20-year mortality from coronary heart disease. The Ireland-Boston Diet-Heart Study

N Engl J Med. 1985 Mar 28;312(13):811-8. doi: 10.1056/NEJM198503283121302.


In a prospective epidemiologic study of 1001 middle-aged men, we examined the relation between dietary information collected approximately 20 years ago and subsequent mortality from coronary heart disease. The men were initially enrolled in three cohorts: one of men born and living in Ireland, another of those born in Ireland who had emigrated to Boston, and the third of those born in the Boston area of Irish immigrants. There were no differences in mortality from coronary heart disease among the three cohorts. In within-population analyses, those who died of coronary heart disease had higher Keys (P = 0.06) and modified Hegsted (P = 0.02) dietary scores than did those who did not (a high score indicates a high intake of saturated fatty acids and cholesterol and a relatively low intake of polyunsaturated fatty acids). These associations were significant (P = 0.03 for the Keys and P = 0.04 for the modified Hegsted scores) after adjustment for other risk factors for coronary heart disease. Fiber intake (P = 0.04) and a vegetable-foods score, which rose with increased intake of fiber, vegetable protein, and starch (P = 0.02), were lower among those who died from coronary heart disease, though not significantly so after adjustment for other risk factors. A higher Keys score carried an increased risk of coronary heart disease (relative risk, 1.60), and a higher fiber intake carried a decreased risk (relative risk, 0.57). Overall, these results tend to support the hypothesis that diet is related, albeit weakly, to the development of coronary heart disease.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Boston
  • Cholesterol, Dietary / administration & dosage
  • Coronary Disease / mortality*
  • Diet*
  • Dietary Carbohydrates / administration & dosage
  • Dietary Fats / administration & dosage
  • Dietary Fiber / administration & dosage
  • Fatty Acids / administration & dosage
  • Fatty Acids, Unsaturated / administration & dosage
  • Humans
  • Ireland / ethnology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Plant Proteins, Dietary / administration & dosage
  • Prospective Studies
  • Vegetables


  • Cholesterol, Dietary
  • Dietary Carbohydrates
  • Dietary Fats
  • Dietary Fiber
  • Fatty Acids
  • Fatty Acids, Unsaturated
  • Plant Proteins, Dietary