The results of a study to assess the efficacy of the Mediterranean diet in the primary prevention of cardiovascular diseases have been published in The New England Journal of Medicine. They indicate that the Mediterranean diet, supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil or tree nuts, reduces by 30% the risk of suffering a cardiovascular death, a myocardial infarction, or a stroke. The study, coordinated by Ramon Estruch, MD, of the University of Barcelona, determined the biomarkers of Mediterranean diet consumption. The research is part of the project PREDIMED, a multicenter trial to study the effects of the Mediterranean diet on the primary prevention of cardiovascular diseases.
The study involved 7,447 people, all of whom had one or more major cardiovascular risk factors. They were divided into three dietary intervention groups: a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil, a Mediterranean diet supplemented with nuts (walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts), and a low-fat diet (animal and vegetable). After five years, it was proved that participants who followed either of the two types of Mediterranean diet showed a substantial reduction in heart disease risk. Researchers estimate that approximately 30% of cardiac events could be prevented by adherence to the diet.
The study provides new data to reject the idea that it is necessary to reduce fats in order to improve cardiovascular health. Low-fat diets have been notoriously difficult for people to maintain. Read a New York Times article about the study.