Good news from our friends in Spain. A recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine has found that those at high risk of heart attack or stroke can reduce their chances of an episode by upwards of 30% simply by adopting the Mediterranean diet. The findings were based on the first major clinical trial to measure diet’s effect on heart risk. The Mediterranean diet was once thought by some experts as actually being bad for your heart, as it is rich in olive oil and nuts. The results of the study were so impressive and clear however, that researchers were able to end the study early.
The study out of the University of Barcelona followed 7,447 people in Spain who were overweight, had diabetes, were smokers or had other risk factors for heart disease. These subjects were randomly assigned to one of three groups. The first group was given a low-fat diet and counseling for sticking to that diet. The other two were given the Mediterranean diet and counseling. One of the Mediterranean diet groups was instructed to use 4 teaspoons of extra-virgin olive oil in their diet each day. The other group was instructed to eat one ounce of a prepared mix of walnuts, hazelnuts and almonds each day. Both groups were also instructed to consume at least three servings of fruits and two servings of vegetables each day. Also, the two groups were instructed to eat at least three servings of fish and three servings of legumes per week. Lastly, if the participants in these groups were accustomed to drinking, they were instructed to consume at least seven glasses of wine with meals each week. All participants were instructed to limit their intake of dairy products and processed meats during the study.
The study found quickly that it was far easier for those in the Mediterranean groups to stick to their diets than those in the low-fat diet group. The real results came very quickly, and even surprised the researchers.
They found that those in either of the Mediterranean groups showed a drastic decrease in their risk of cardiovascular disease in a relatively short period of time. After only five years in the study, they demonstrated an average of a 30% decrease in risk factors, simply by changing their diet. It should also be noted that most of those in the study did not significantly lose much weight or decrease their body mass index.
More research is needed to see the benefits of the Mediterranean diet in those at low-risk of heart disease, but the researchers are confident the results will still be quite positive. I don’t know about you, but I could suddenly go for some Mediterranean food.