The latest study on diet has found the link between the Mediterranean diet and better heart health. Providing further evidence of this association, a new study suggests the diet could reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and death.
The lead scientist Dr. Nita Forouhi, of the Medical Research Council Epidemiology Unit at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom, and colleagues report their findings in the journal BMC Medicine.
Cardiovascular disease (CVD) refers to conditions that affect the heart and blood vessels,including stroke, heart attack, and heart disease.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States, killing around 610,000 people annually. Heart attack affects around735,000 Americans each year, while around 800,000 people are affected by stroke.
Adopting a healthy diet is considered key for reducing the risk of CVD, and numerous studies have suggested the Mediterranean diet fits the bill.
A study published in the “European Heart Journal” earlier this year, for example, found older adults who adhered to the Mediterranean diet were at lower risk of heart attack, stroke, and cardiovascular death than those who followed a Western diet.
The Mediterranean diet
The Mediterranean diet is a kind of diet traditional in Mediterranean countries, characterized especially by a high consumption of vegetables and olive oil and moderate consumption of protein, and thought to confer health benefits.
This diet incorporates the basics of healthy eating and plus a splash of flavorful olive oil and perhaps a glass of red wine— among other components characterizing the traditional cooking style of countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea.
Most healthy diets include fruits, vegetables,fish and whole grains, and limit unhealthy fats. While these parts of a healthy diet are tried-and-true, subtle variations or differences in proportions of certain foods may make a difference in your risk of heart disease.
Dr. Forouhi and team for their research set out to investigate how adhering to a Mediterranean diet affects the risk of developing CVD, as well as what proportion of CVD cases and deaths might be prevented in the U.K.as a result of adherence to the diet.
Basic elements of Mediterranean diet
The Mediterranean diet contents the following basic components:
- Eating primarily plant-based foods, such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts
- Replacing butter with healthy fats such as olive oil and canola oil
- Using herbs and spices instead of salt to flavor foods
- Limiting red meat to no more than a few times a month
- Eating fish and poultry at least twice a week
- Enjoying meals with family and friends
- Drinking red wine in moderation(optional)
- Getting plenty of exercise
The Mediterranean diet can reduce the risk of CVD about 16 percent
Scientists involve in the research have analyzed data from 23,902 healthy adults who were a part of the EPIC-Norfolk Study - a multi-center cohort study of more than30,000 British adults that mainly looks at the link between diet, lifestyle,and cancer.
For the research requirement, participants completed food frequency questionnaires,which the researchers analyzed to determine adherence to the Mediterranean diet. They did so using a 15-point score based on guidelines from the Mediterranean Diet Foundation.
Over an average follow-up period of 12-17 years, the researchers identified 7,606new cases of CVD among the participants, as well as 1,714 CVD deaths.
Compared with participants with low adherence to the Mediterranean diet, the researchers found that subjects with higher adherence to the diet were 6-16 percent less likely to develop CVD.
Applying their results to the U.K. population, the team estimated that if healthy Britons adhered to the Mediterranean diet, around 3.9 percent of new-onset CVD cases and 12.5 percent of CVD deaths could be prevented.
"If our findings are broadly representative of the overall U.K. population, then we can assume that higher level of adherence to the Mediterranean diet could have significant impact in lowering the cardiovascular disease burden in the U.K.," notes Dr. Forouhi.
But the researchers say their findings are not just applicable to the U.K.:
"These results add to the pool of evidence on the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet, even in a non-Mediterranean country where an optimal dietary pattern is unknown.
Our findings stimulate future population-based and clinical investigations into the efficacy and effectiveness of adhering to the Mediterranean diet in contemporary, non-Mediterranean populations."