[Written by Peter Nielsen].
The Mediterranean diet has taken the spotlight in health news again, and the news is great for heart health! A new Spanish study found that a diet rich in olive oil, nuts, fresh fruits and vegetables is even more effective at helping people with high risks for cardiovascular problems avoid heart trouble than a low-fat diet.
The study included a five year follow-up, during which participants who followed a Mediterranean diet with an emphasis on olive oil or nuts had a 30 percent greater reduction of risk for a heart attack, stroke or death from cardiovascular disease. Participants on a low-fat diet also improved, but to a lesser degree. These finding were published Feb. 25 in the online edition of the New England Journal of Medicine. The results will also be presented this week at the International Congress on Vegetarian Nutrition in Loma Linda, Calif.
This study involved almost 7,500 men and women, whose ages ranged from 55 to 80 at the beginning of the study in 2003. Fifty-seven percent of the participants were women. Participants had risk factors such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity or high cholesterol, but no history of heart attacks or strokes. They were broken into three groups; a low-fat diet, a Mediterranean diet with a focus on nuts, and a Mediterranean diet that focused on olive oil. Both of the groups on the Mediterranean diet also ate plenty of fruits and vegetables, fish, and drank wine with meals. The nutritional regimen of the low-fat group included low-fat dairy, bread, potatoes, fruits and vegetables and lean fish. Oils, baked goods, nuts, red and processed meat and fatty fish were avoided for all particpants.
The results? A 30 per cent reduction in risk of heart disease for those on the Mediterranean diet over those on the low-fat diet! This is great, significant news, and if you’re not aware of the basics of a Mediterranean diet, this news should spur you on to learn more. Here are the basics:
• Food from plant sources, including fruits and vegetables, grains, beans, nuts, and seeds.
• A variety of minimally processed and, wherever possible, seasonally fresh and locally grown foods.
• Olive oil as the principal fat, replacing other fats and oils.
• Consumption of low to moderate amounts of fish or poultry, a maximum of 7 eggs per week — including eggs used in food preparation.
• Fresh fruit as the typical daily dessert.
• If red meat is part of your normal diet, eat a maximum of 12 to 16 ounces of lean cuts per month.
• Regular physical activity at a level which promotes a healthy weight, fitness and well-being.
New studies on various low-fat and vegan diets are in process now, but for a tried and true, heart-healthy diet, Mediterranean is the way to go!
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