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Dietary habit profile in european communites with different risk of myocardial infarction: the impact of migration as a model of gene/environment interaction

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Are Europeans at risk of myocardial infraction?

A recent study reveals the influence of dietary habits and lifestyle on the prevalence of cardiovascular risk across three European communities. The derived information shatters common beliefs and is expected to greatly contribute to national and European public health policies.


The IMMIDIET project developed a questionnaire on lifestyles including dietary habits, smoking habits and physical activity that was translated into several languages. This was distributed to four different groups of the same range of age and for both sexes. The groups were 270 Be/Be couples in Belgium, 270 It/It couples in Italy 270 UK/UK couples in U.K and a group of 270 mixed couples It/Be in Belgium. One of the most interesting findings was that the "North-South gradient" of risk and consequently mortality for cardiovascular disease has almost disappeared. Although it was believed that British are at highest risk of cardiovascular disease, their ever-changing lifestyles may aid in diminishing this risk especially in particular regions. It needs to be noted that the derived data is not representative of the whole country, but it may very well reflect national food habits. An increase of blood pressure from England to Belgium and Italy was also noticed which may be due to a recorded increase of salt intake. This was identified with the aid of the respective marker, the urinary sodium excretion and it was more evident for women than men. The higher the salt intake with the diet the higher the level of blood pressure that may lead into a higher risk of stroke, especially for Italian women. Unlike common beliefs that there are great differences in dietary intake among regional groups, there seems to be a trend for homogenisation of nutrition between Europeans. Yet, there are big differences in terms of smoking and physical activity habits, with Italians paying the least attention to these risk factors. In addition, it was also observed that genetics do not play a key role in the determination of risk unless environment is also taken into account. Mixed couples have a better risk profile as migration and integration seems to promote healthy lifestyles. An anonymous database and a Biological Bank of DNA, plasma, serum and urine samples containing information on 2050 subjects respectively from eligible couples have been developed. For aiding similar research practices and promoting healthy lifestyles the project web-site is available by clicking at

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