Following a Mediterranean diet “may reduce the number of heart attacks in people at higher risk.” The first study of its kind in the world has shown that eating plenty of olive oil, nuts, seafood, whole grains and vegetables can benefit hundreds of millions of people with obesity, diabetes or other risk factors. The researchers compared seven diets in this regard.
A Mediterranean diet may reduce the risk of heart attack, stroke or premature death for hundreds of millions of people who are at increased risk of cardiovascular disease, researchers say.
Mediterranean diet – to whom it is especially recommended
A diet rich in olive oil, nuts, seafood, whole grains and vegetables has previously been associated with many benefits, and its effect on extending the lives of healthy people is well known. However, until now, there hasn’t been much evidence on how the Mediterranean diet can help people with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. These include hundreds of millions of people living with obesity, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol, and people who are physically inactive, smoke or consume harmful amounts of alcohol. Previous guidelines recommended different diets for people at increased risk of heart disease, but there was a lack of scientific evidence for their effectiveness. Now a large study – the first of its kind in the world, analyzing forty high-confidence controlled studies involving more than 35,000 people – has provided solid evidence.
Diets that reduce the likelihood of a heart attack
Reported in The BMJ, the study’s findings indicate that a Mediterranean and low-fat diet reduces the likelihood of death and heart attack in people at increased risk of cardiovascular disease. According to its authors, “moderate certainty evidence” shows that “a Mediterranean and low-fat diet, combined with physical activity”, reduces the risk of “all-cause mortality and non-fatal myocardial infarction in patients at increased cardiovascular risk.” It added, “probably also reduces the risk of stroke.” Forty studies involving 35,548 participants – who were followed for an average of three years in seven diet programs – were reviewed by researchers at USACanada ChinaSpain, Colombia and Brazil.
Seven diets that have been considered
In addition to the Mediterranean and low-fat diets, the study also included ultra-low-fat, modified, combined low-fat and low-sodium diets, the Ornish diet, and the Pritikin diet. Based on moderate-certainty evidence, Mediterranean diet programs have been shown to be more effective in preventing all-cause mortality, myocardial infarction, and non-fatal stroke in people at risk of cardiovascular disease. Low-fat programs were also more effective, with moderate certainty, in preventing all-cause mortality and non-fatal myocardial infarction. Five other diet programs generally showed little or no benefit.
What should people with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease eat
“Whether you’re at risk or not, a healthy lifestyle that includes a balanced diet, such as the Mediterranean diet, can help reduce your risk of developing heart and circulatory disease,” Tracy Parker, senior dietitian at The Guardian, told The Guardian. British Heart Foundation. – Risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease such as type 2 diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure and high cholesterol are also reduced with a Mediterranean diet. The diet of people at increased risk of cardiovascular disease should include plenty of fruits and vegetables, beans, lentils, whole grains, fish, nuts and seeds, as well as some low-fat dairy and olive oil. Avoid processed meat, salt, and sweet treats.
The researchers acknowledged several limitations of their work, such as the inability to control adherence to the diet programs, and reserve the possibility that some of the benefits may have been due to other factors, such as drug treatment and smoking cessation.
Tracy Parker, a senior dietician at the British Heart Foundation, who was not involved in the study, said: “It has long been known that Mediterranean-style food is good for the heart, but it is encouraging to see how programs like this reduce the risk of death and heart attack.” in patients already at risk of cardiovascular disease.
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