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Mediterranean diet for a healthy heart

A traditional Mediterranean diet that includes a healthy serving of nuts each day reduces the risk of heart disease.

Mediterranean diet for a healthy heart

A traditional Mediterranean diet that includes a healthy serving of nuts each day reduces the risk of heart disease. A Mediterranean diet traditionally includes anti-oxidant rich fruits, vegetables, pasta, rice, olive oil and nuts. To study the association between Mediterranean diet and the risk of developing heart disease, researchers from Spain identified 1,224 older adults at a high risk of cardiovascular disease, 61 percent of whom had metabolic syndrome at the beginning of the study. The participants were divided into three groups- the first group was asked to have a Mediterranean diet with olive oil, the other was asked to have a Mediterranean diet with nuts and the third was advised to have a low fat diet. It was found that those who followed a Mediterranean, with olive oil or nuts, had lower rates of metabolic syndrome - a clustering of risk factors for heart disease, diabetes and stroke, which includes high blood pressure, abdominal obesity, elevated blood sugar and unhealthy cholesterol levels. Further, the prevalence of metabolic syndrome among the men and women who followed the nut-enriched Mediterranean diet fell by nearly 14 percent over one year compared with roughly 7 percent among study participants who followed a traditional Mediterranean diet rich in olive oil. On the other hand, in a third study group that followed a low-fat diet, the prevalence of metabolic syndrome dipped by only 2 percent. The above findings suggest that the Mediterranean diet can help manage metabolic syndrome, even without weight loss or exercise. They also imply that the benefits may be greater when people use nuts as a major fat source. Nuts are whole foods that provide nutrients other than healthy fats -including fiber, potassium, calcium and magnesium. Walnuts also contain substantially more of heart-healthy omega-3 fat than olive oil does. These nutrients have been shown to reduce blood pressure, cholesterol and inflammation, and improve the body's use of insulin, a hormone that regulates blood sugar. A longer-term follow-up is needed to see if the Mediterranean diets prevent heart attacks and other complications of metabolic syndrome.
Archives of Internal Medicine
December 2008
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