Mediterranean Diet Beats Exercise for Heart Disease Prevention
Filling up on oily fish, nuts, whole grains and fruit and vegetables – and even the odd glass of red wine – could cut your risk of developing heart disease by almost half over a 10-year period. Scientists at Harokopio University in Athens found that the benefits even outweigh those of regular exercise – and it doesn’t matter whether you’re a man or a woman, old or young. Ekavi Georgousopoulou, a PhD candidate, who conducted the study along with Professor Demosthenes B Panagiotakos, said: “Our study shows that the Mediterranean diet is a beneficial intervention for all types of people – in both genders, in all age groups, and in both healthy people and those with health conditions. “It also reveals that the Mediterranean diet has direct benefits for heart health, in addition to its indirect benefits in managing diabetes, hypertension and inflammation.” More than 2,500 Greek adults, aged 18 to 89, provided researchers with details about their health each year from 2001 to 2012. The participants also completed comprehensive surveys about their medical records lifestyle and dietary habits three times throughout the study: at the start, after five years and after 10 years.
|Additionally the researchers scored the participants’ diets on a scale of 1 to 55, according to their intake of the 11 food groups. During the decade almost a fifth (20 per cent) of the men and 12 per cent of the women who took part in the study developed or died from heart disease. Overall, those who most closely adhered to a Mediterranean-style diet (participants that scored in the top-third on the scale) were found to be 47 per cent less likely to develop heart disease than those who did not (participants that scored in the bottom-third on the scale). Each one-point increase represented a three per cent drop in heart disease risk. This figure was the same regardless of other risk factors such as age, gender, family history and smoking habits, all of which the researchers accounted for. The results of the study also bolster previous research showing that being male, older, and having diabetes or high C-reactive protein levels – a measure of inflammation – are increased risk factors for developing heart disease.|
According to the study, women are more likely to adopt a Mediterranean diet than men. Georgousopoulou also pointed out that although Greece is in the Mediterranean, may Greeks have no set Mediterranean diet, it commonly emphasizes fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, fish, olive oil and even a glass of red wine. Earlier research has shown that following the traditional Mediterranean diet is linked to weight loss, reduced risk of diabetes, lower blood pressure and lower blood cholesterol levels, in addition to reduced risk of heart disease.
The study, “Adherence to Mediterranean is the Most Important Protector Against the Development of Fatal and Non-Fatal Cardiovascular Event: 10-Year Follow-up (2002-12) Of the Attica Study,” will be presented on March 15 at the American College of Cardiology’s 64th Annual Scientific Session in San Diego. The meeting runs March 14-16.