Salmon with Almond Crust

It is well known that the Mediterranean diet is considered heart-healthy due to its dietary components, particularly olive oil, and now according to Canadian researchers the effect can be immediate.

A new study published in the Canadian Journal of Cardiology showed that while a single junk food meal with mainly saturated fat can harm the arteries, a Mediterranean meal rich in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat from olive oil and fatty fish not only did not affect artery function, it even had a positive effect.

Researchers from the University of Montreal-affiliated ÉPIC Center of the Montreal Heart Institute set out to compare the effects of a junk food meal and a typical Mediterranean meal on the health of blood vessels. For the study 28 non-smoking men were given first a Mediterranean style meal composed of vegetables cooked in olive oil, almonds and salmon. For this meal, 51 percent of total calories came from fat mainly monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.

After a week the same group of men were given a “junk food” meal consisting of a sandwich made with sausage, an egg, and a slice of cheese, and three hash browns with 58 percent of total calories coming from fat, mainly saturated fat with no Omega-3 fatty acids. After the consumption of both meals the researchers conducted ultrasounds on the participants in order to assess the effect of the meals on endothelial function.

The results showed that after the junk food meal, the arteries dilated 26 percent less, meaning that there was limited blood flow. After the Mediterranean style meal, there was no reduction of dilation and the arteries functioned normally and had good blood flow. In fact, it appeared that participants with higher blood triglyceride levels seemed to benefit more from the Mediterranean meals. Artery dilation is a key characteristic of endothelial function and as the researchers noted in their study: poor endothelial function is one of the most significant precursors of atherosclerosis.

This study is significant because it shows that not all high fat meals and diets are detrimental to health. The Mediterranean diet, with its main source of fat coming from olive oil, can have long-term and short-term positive effects on health.

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