The Mediterranean diet uses olive oil for cooking and is typically rich in fruits and vegetables, beans, nuts and seeds, whole grain bread and unrefined cereals. Dairy products, eggs, fish and poultry are consumed in low to moderate amounts, with little or no red meat and moderate consumption of wine.
Combined with a healthy lifestyle - increased physical activity, moderate alcohol consumption and not smoking - this diet has previously been shown to lower death rates caused by heart disease.
Further, the Lyon Diet Heart Study tested the effectiveness of a Mediterranean-type diet in people who had already suffered a first heart attack. During a 4-year follow up period, patients following this diet showed an amazing 50-70% reduction in their risk of recurrent heart disease.
Now the results of the PREDIMED study, aimed at assessing how effectively the Mediterranean diet prevents heart disease, show that when supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil or tree nuts it reduces the risk of death by heart attack, myocardial infarction or stroke by 30 percent.
A total of 7,447 people with major risk factors for heart disease participated in this new study. They were divided into three groups: those who consumed either a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil or a Mediterranean diet supplemented with nuts (walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts), or a low-fat diet.
A dietician visited the patients every three months, who also attended dietary training group sessions. Moreover, they were provided with shopping lists, menus and recipes adapted to each type of diet and each season of the year.
Participants who followed the two types of Mediterranean diet freely received either extra-virgin olive oil up to one liter per week or 30 grams of nuts every day. After five years, those who followed the two types of Mediterranean diet both showed a significant reduction in their risk of risk of death by heart attack, myocardial infarction or stroke.
These results are both novel and promising because they prove that a high-vegetable fat diet is healthier for the cardiovascular system than a low-fat diet.
Maybe it’s time you added extra-virgin olive oil and nuts to your diet? What is your favorite Mediterranean recipe?