Preventing heart disease – the Mediterranean Diet

A Mediterranean diet may cut the risk of cardiovascular events by as much as 30% in people at high risk of developing heart disease, as compared with people advised to eat a reduced-fat diet.

These findings were presented at the International Congress on vegetarian nutrition in February 2013.

Trial results: Low fat or Mediterranean diet?

This is one of the best randomised control trials in dietary studies. Almost 7, 500 American adults who were at high cardiovascular risk were randomised to either a low-fat diet or a Mediterranean diet, the latter supplemented either with the addition of olive oil or nuts.

After five years only, those on the Mediterranean diet had a reduction in heart attack and all cardiovascular death by 30% (irrespective of whether they had olive oil or nuts added) as compared with the control group.

This is equivalent to many cholesterol lowering medications. Study drop-outs were twice as common in the low-fat diet group is in the Mediterranean group.

So what is a Mediterranean diet?

This involves has a high intake of:

  • vegetables
  • fruit
  • nuts
  • fish
  • legumes (peas, beans, lentils, chickpeas and even peanuts etc, which aren’t eaten in high quantities in Australia)
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • red wine in moderation

The authors also suggest we increase the intake of white meat, and decrease the intake of:

  • red and processed meat
  • whole dairy products
  • soda drinks
  • commercial bakery goods
  • sweets and pastries

Two of the biggest culprits – red meat and full fat diary

Two of the biggest contributors to elevating your bad cholesterol are simple: red meat and full fat dairy.

Lately I’ve been suggesting cutting out red meat and dairy completely but the trick is then to get enough calcium from other sources such as salmon bones, broccoli and other vegetables.

Written by Dr John Cummins, March 2013

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