Mediterranean Diet May Reduce the Risk of Major Heart Diseases

Mediterranean Diet May Reduce the Risk of Major Heart Diseases

A diet rich in Fruits, Nuts & olive oil can keep heart diseases at bay

Health News Highlights of Nutrition Remarks (June 07, 2013)

Written by Suhanki Rajapaksa, MBBS., Health News Writer for Nutrition Remarks, Solon, OH, USA.

Reviewed by Dr. MA Martinez-González MD, PhD, MPH., Professor and  Chairman, Department of Preventive Medicine and Public Health. Medical School, University of Navarra, Spain.

Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) is explained as narrowing of the small blood vessels that supply blood and oxygen to the heart. CHD is also called coronary artery disease and is the most common type of heart disease. In the United States, CHD is the number one cause of death for both men and women.  It alone costs the United States $108.9 billion each year, when taking into account the cost of health care services, medications, and lost productivity.

Grilled salmonLifestyle changes, medicines, and medical procedures can help prevent or treat CHD. These treatments may reduce the risk of related health problems. Among these preventive lifestyle modifications, dietary interventions have come upon close scrutiny in the recent past.

The Mediterranean diet in particular has been under the spotlight with regards to prevention of heart diseases. The traditional Mediterranean diet is characterized by a high intake of olive oil, fruit, nuts, vegetables, and cereals; a moderate intake of fish and poultry; a low intake of dairy products, red meat, processed meats and sweets; and wine in moderation, consumed with meals.

A team of researchers led by Drs. Ramón Estruch of the Instituto de Salud Carlos III, Madrid Department of Internal Medicine and Miguel A. Martínez-González of the Preventive Medicine and Public Health dept, University of Navarra, Pamplona Spain has  conducted an interesting study which highlights the benefit of a Mediterranean diet with regards to preventing CHD. They studied a starting group of 7447 people from 2003 to June 2009 randomly assigning them into three groups according to their Diets.

The differentiation of the groups was mainly by the consumption of Mediterranean & non-Mediterranean food items.

The 2 groups on a Mediterranean diet were encouraged to eat the following items:

*Olive oil

*Tree nuts and peanuts

*Fresh Fruits

*Vegetables

*Fish & other seafood

*Legumes

*Sofrito sauce

*White meat

*Wine with meals (IF the subjects were habitual drinkers)

Soda drinks, commercial bakery goods such as sweets & pastries, spread fats, Red & processed meats were discouraged from their diet.

One of these two groups received virgin olive oil as a gift; the other Mediterranean group received mixed tree nuts (wlanuts, almonds and hazelnuts).

The third group was the control group and they were encouraged to eat:

*Low fat dairy products

*Bread, Pasta, Rice

*Potatoes, Fresh vegetables & Fruit

* Lean fish & seafood.

They were asked to stay away from all vegetable oils including olive oil, nuts and fried snacks, red and processed fatty meats. fatty fish, canned seafood in oil, and sofrito, spread fats.

It’s important to note that none of the people enrolled in this study had a history of cardiovascular disease at the time the study started. But they did have risk factors such as either type 2 diabetes mellitus or at least three of the following which are identified to be major risk factors for heart disease; smoking, hypertension, elevated levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, low levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, being overweight or obese, or a family history of premature coronary heart disease.

Beginning on October 1, 2003, participants were randomly assigned to one of the three dietary intervention groups: a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil, a Mediterranean diet supplemented with nuts, or a control group whose diet included low fat food and excluded the main Mediterranean dietary components as explained above. Questionnaires were given to the participants to test their diet and physical activity yearly. On a random basis urine & blood product tests were run to test if the subjects were complying with the recommended diets.

Over the time frame of a median of 4.8 years the study subjects were observed for cardiovascular events – Primarily Myocardial infarction, Stroke and Death from Cardiovascular causes.

Interestingly the groups on a Mediterranean diet supplemented with either virgin olive oil or nuts showed an absolute risk reduction of 3 cardiovascular events per 1000 person-years at risk. For a relative risk reduction of approximately 30%, among high risk persons who were initially free of cardiovascular disease.

The risk of stroke was reduced significantly in the two Mediterranean-diet groups.

The findings in this study confirm the observations made in previous studies which have shown that a Mediterranean diet help to reduce the incidence of cardiovascular diseases, And are comparable to the findings in the Women’s Health Initiative Dietary Modification trial which showed no benefit of a low-fat dietary approach on cardiovascular risk reduction. It also supports an inverse association between the Mediterranean diet or olive-oil consumption and incidence of stroke as proven by previous epidemiological studies. The study takes the observations of the Lyon Diet heart study a step further by taking into account a larger number of cardiovascular events over time on at-risk persons and by studying primary prevention (persons who were initially healthy) instead of secondary prevention (only survivors of a heart attack, as were the participants of the Lyon study).

Though further research will be necessary to explore the exact causes and mechanisms of risk reduction, these trials undoubtedly favor the idea that a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil or nuts, plays an important role in the primary prevention of coronary heart diseases among high-risk persons.

And it will be beneficial for us all to add more nuts, olive oil and Fresh fruits & Vegetables to our diets as well as substitute fish and white meat for red and processed meats.

This information is primarily based on the following article published by Drs. Ramón Estruch and Miguel A. Martínez-González. Additional information abstracted from PubMed, CDC , National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), American Heart Association Journals, American journal of clinical nutrition and other reliable sources.

Estruch R., et al Primary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease with a Mediterranean Diet. The New England Journal of Medicine. 2013, 368:1279-1290.

Other resources:

http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/cad/

http://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/facts.htm

http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/92/5/1189.long

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16532897

http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/99/6/779.long

http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/103/13/1823.long#content-block

http://www.neurology.org/content/early/2011/06/15/WNL.0b013e318220abeb.abstract