2 Minute Look at the Mediterranean Diet – Can it Lower Cardiovascular Risk?

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The New England Journal of Medicine recently published the results of a clinical trial that asked the question; Does eating a Mediterranean diet reduce the likelihood of having a cardiovascular event in people with high risk factor?


The trial included 7447 people age 55 to 80 (57% women) and spanned 4.8 years. None of the participants had known heart problems before the trial began, but all of them were at risk. This meant that everyone in the study had either Type II Diabetes or at least 3 cardiovascular risk factors (hypertension, high LDL, low HDL, overweight, family history, or smoking).


Everyone was split into one of three groups: a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil, a Mediterranean diet supplemented with mixed nuts, or a control diet (just advised to reduce dietary fat).


When the dust settled and they excluded the ones that didn’t stick to the diet, they found that the folks eating a Mediterranean diet had a 29% lower risk of experiencing a cardiovascular event. They then concluded that at least for people with high risk factors, a Mediterranean diet reduced major cardiovascular events. They also observed a significant reduction in stokes.


These results are encouraging, but these types of studies are far from pure. The researchers are forced to take people at their word on food intake. The trials main focus was to measure events for subgroups and the main groups, but it would have been equally interesting if they would have reported the change in risk factors also.


What is the Mediterranean diet?

The Mediterranean diet is so named because it’s a traditional diet of many countries that border the Mediterranean Sea, like Italy, Greece and Spain.


This diet is high in nuts, whole grain cereals, legumes, olive oil (instead of butter & lard), vegetables, and fruit. It includes a moderate amount of fish, eggs, poultry, cultured dairy products (cheeses and yogurt), and wine… and not very much meat or sugar. It’s also light on the salt, leaning more on herbs and spices.


Let me know if you’ve ever tried it or if you’re currently eating this way!


Co-Founder of NutritionGeeks, retired USAPL drug-free powerlifter, volunteer youth wrestling coach, father of 3 amazing boys and interested in all things health

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