Health In Focus
  • Mediterranean diet is associated with a lower risk of chronic diseases.
  • New study claims that Mediterranean diet may reduce the risk of death in patients with a history of cardiovascular disease
  • Mediterranean diet includes plant-based foods, lean protein, and healthy fats

Studies have shown that Mediterranean diet can benefit health in numerous ways such as weight loss, low cholesterol, and prevent chronic diseases. An observational study suggests that the Mediterranean diet can reduce the risk of death in patients with a history of cardiovascular disease.

The Mediterranean Diet and Heart Health
Mediterranean Diet may Reduce Death Risk in Patients With Cardiovascular Disease

Mediterranean diet is a healthy diet that includes vegetables, fruits, whole grains, healthy fats (olive oil), nuts, lean proteins and wine.

Professor Giovanni de Gaetano, head of the Department of Epidemiology and Prevention at the I.R.C.C.S. Neuromed Institute in Pozzilli, said, "The Mediterranean diet is widely recognized as one of the healthier nutrition habits in the world. In fact, many scientific studies have shown that a traditional Mediterranean lifestyle is associated with a lower risk of various chronic diseases and, more importantly, of death from any cause."

Previous research has focused only on the general population, which mainly includes healthy people. "But, what happens to the people who have already suffered from the cardiovascular diet? Can a Mediterranean diet be beneficial for them too?" added Professor de Gaetano.

To find out whether the Mediterranean diet can benefit patients with a history of heart disease, researchers conducted an observational study. The participants of the study were enrolled in the Moli-sani project (a prospective epidemiological study that randomly recruited around 25 000 adults living in the Italian region of Molise.)

The lead author of the study, Dr Marialaura Bonaccio, said, "Among the participants, we identified 1197 people who reported a history of cardiovascular disease at the time of enrolment into Moli-sani."

The researchers recorded the food intake of the participants using the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer (EPIC) food frequency questionnaire. The adherence to the Mediterranean diet was evaluated with a 9-point Mediterranean diet score (MDS). The causes of death were assessed by linkage with data from the office of vital statistics in Molise.

About 208 deaths were reported during the follow-up of the study. There was a 2-point increase in the MDS associated with a 21 percent of reduced risk of death. The reduced risk was after controlling factors such as age, gender, education, energy intake, consumption of potato and egg, leisure-time physical activity, waist-hip ratio, smoking, hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, diabetes and cancer at baseline. The adherence to the Mediterranean diet was associated with 37% lower risk of death for the highest score 6 to 9 when compared to the lowest score 0 to 3.

Professor de Gaetano said, "We found that among those with a higher adherence to the Mediterranean diet, death from any cause was reduced by 37% in comparison to those who poorly adhered to this dietary regime."

The researchers investigated further in the study by looking at the role played by foods that make up the Mediterranean diet. Higher consumption of vegetables, fish, fruits, nuts and olive oil (monounsaturated fatty acids) have contributed to reduced risk of death due to cardiovascular disease.

Professor de Gaetano concluded that "These results prompt us to investigate the mechanisms by which the Mediterranean diet may protect against death. This was an observational study so we cannot say that the effect is causal. We expect that dietary effects on mediators common to chronic diseases such as inflammation might result in the reduction of mortality from any cause, but further research is needed."

Other Proven Benefits of the Mediterranean Diet

1. Protects against type 2 diabetes
2. Reduces Alzheimer's risk
3. Improves longevity
4. Lowers the levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL)
5. Reduces risk of cancer

Simple Steps to Start a Mediterranean Diet

1. Cook using olive oil
2. Snack on fruits, vegetables and nuts
3. Choose whole grains
4. Use herbs and spices instead of salt
5. Limit consumption of red meat
6. Consume fish and poultry at least twice a week
7. Drink wine in moderation

Source: Medindia

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