New Study Demonstrates Heart Health Benefits of Mediterranean Diet

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Medical Research: What are the main findings?
Response: The diet-heart hypothesis has been researched during decades. A common mistake was to assume that a high intake of all types of fat was detrimental for cardiovascular health and could cause heart attacks and strokes. Therefore a low-fat diet was proposed as the best way to prevent heart attacks and strokes. This was wrong.

Alternatively, the Mediterranean diet, rich in fat from natural vegetable sources (olive oil, tree nuts), was also considered a healthy dietary pattern.

However, most of the evidence to support these benefits of a fat-rich Mediterranean diet came from observational studies and no randomized clinical trial had ever assessed the Mediterranean diet in PRIMARY prevention (i.e. in initially healthy people)

Medical Research: What are the main findings?
Response: We randomized 7447 participants to one of three diets: 1) Mediterranean diet with free (at no cost) provision of virgin olive oil; 2) Mediterranean diet with free (at no cost) provision of tree nuts; 3) Control group (advice to follow a low fat diet).

After 5 years, we found a 30% relative reduction in the risk of a combined end-point of heart attacks+stroke+cardiovascular death. We also observed strong reductions in the risk of peripheral artery disease and also significant reductions in the risk of type-2 diabetes and atrial fibrillation, especially with virgin olive oil.

Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?
Response: A Mediterranean diet with abundance of olive oil, tree nuts, other plant-derived foods (fruits, vegetables, legumes), red wine (with meals), fish, and low in red/processed meats, with no sweet desserts and no sugar-sweetened beverages represents the ideal and more sustainable dietary pattern to improve heart health and to prevent strokes, atrial fibrillation and type-2 diabetes.

Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?
Response: In the upcoming months and years we will be able to assess the role of the Mediterranean diet in the prevention or the major cancers (breast, colorectal, lung, prostate).

We are currently doing good progress in showing the reduction in the risk of cognitive impairment and dementia with a Mediterranean diet rich in extravirgin olive oil.

MedicalResearch.com Interview was with: Miguel Á. Martínez-González, MD, MPH, PhD
Department of Preventive Medicine & Public Health
School of Medicine, University of Navarra
Navarra, Spain.
Please visit: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23670794

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