The “Mediterranean Diet” has already garnered a sparking and well-deserved reputation as the champion of all heart-healthy diets, and it just won a scientific grand slam. In this landmark evaluation, researchers placed almost 7,500 older adults with risk factors for heart disease on one of three diet plans – a Mediterranean diet where most of the fats were from extra virgin olive oil, a Mediterranean diet where most of the fats were from nuts, or a low-fat eating plan that emphasized grains, fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products. Study participants were carefully followed for the next 5 years. At the end of the 5 year study period, study subjects on either of the Mediterranean plans were 28 to 30 percent less likely to die of heart attacks, strokes, or any other cardiovascular-type death vs. those on the low-fat plan.
There are two things that make this evaluation particularly noteworthy. First, this was a randomized interventional trial – the only kind of study that can provide solid proof of a cause and effect relationship. Second, most all of the study subjects were already on powerful drugs like statins and diabetes medications that work through the same avenues as heart-healthy foods. To see such marked levels of additional protection speaks to the sensational power of the right foods to guard and protect the health of our heart and arteries. To remind you – a Mediterranean diet like those used in this study is rich in fish, legumes, fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, and olive oil while low in red meats, sugars, refined breads, and processed foods. Based on the abundance of studies I have reviewed, this eating pattern comes up a winner repeatedly (and for most everything). Perhaps the best part is how great it tastes, so go Mediterranean! (New England Journal of Medicine online February 25, 2013)