Spanish researchers found peo­ple suf­fered fewer heart attacks and strokes when fol­low­ing a Mediterranean diet (MedDiet), sup­ple­mented with extra vir­gin olive oil or nuts, com­pared to those fol­low­ing a low-​fat diet. The results build on obser­va­tional stud­ies that have shown an inverse rela­tion­ship between adher­ence to the MedDiet and car­dio­vas­cu­lar risk.

Those assigned to an energy-​unrestricted Mediterranean diet, sup­ple­mented with extra-​virgin olive oil or nuts, had a lower rate of major car­dio­vas­cu­lar events than those assigned to a reduced-​fat diet- Researchers

Lead author Ramón Estruch and col­leagues at the Instituto de Salud Carlos III in Madrid stud­ied 7,447 par­tic­i­pants who ranged in age from 55 to 80 and were at a height­ened risk of car­dio­vas­cu­lar events.

They ran­dom­ized the indi­vid­u­als to fol­low one of three diets: a MedDiet sup­ple­mented with extra vir­gin olive oil, a MedDiet sup­ple­mented with nuts and a con­trol diet involv­ing advice to cut back on fat intake. All three groups received dietary coun­sel­ing and were eval­u­ated for dietary adher­ence. The dura­tion of the exper­i­ment was 4.8 years.

A heart attack, stroke or death from car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­ease occurred in 288 par­tic­i­pants: 96 in the MedDiet with extra vir­gin olive oil group, 83 in the MedDiet with nuts group and 109 in the con­trol group.

This data trans­lated into inci­dence rates of 8.1, 8.0, and 11.2 per 1,000 person-​years, respec­tively. Rates of car­dio­vas­cu­lar events were lower in indi­vid­u­als with bet­ter adher­ence to the MedDiet, the researchers noted.

“These results sup­port pre­vi­ously reported ben­e­fits of the Mediterranean diet for car­dio­vas­cu­lar risk reduc­tion from a ran­dom­ized trial. Our find­ings are also con­sis­tent with those of pre­vi­ous obser­va­tional stud­ies,” the authors said.

“In con­clu­sion, in this pri­mary pre­ven­tion study involv­ing per­sons at high risk for car­dio­vas­cu­lar events, those assigned to an energy-​unrestricted Mediterranean diet, sup­ple­mented with extra-​virgin olive oil or nuts, had a lower rate of major car­dio­vas­cu­lar events than those assigned to a reduced-​fat diet. Our find­ings sup­port a ben­e­fi­cial effect of the Mediterranean diet for the pri­mary pre­ven­tion of car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­ease.”

Extra vir­gin olive oil and nuts are excel­lent sources of healthy fat. In an inter­view with Olive Oil Times, Haley Hughes, reg­is­tered dietit­ian and cer­ti­fied dia­betes edu­ca­tor with RDRx Nutrition explained the impor­tance of this kind of fat and the nutri­tional fac­tors under­ly­ing the study’s results.

“We need to increase polyun­sat­u­rated fats includ­ing olive oil, nuts, avo­cado and fish in our diet because they pro­vide so many amaz­ing health ben­e­fits. Multiple stud­ies show how these fats com­ing from nutrient-​dense sources sup­port the heart, reduce blood pres­sure, improve brain health, encour­age cell growth and pro­mote sati­ety. These fats also pro­vide antiox­i­dants and vit­a­min E. Your body needs such fat to absorb and uti­lize cer­tain essen­tial vit­a­mins, so it should be con­sumed daily in sug­gested amounts.”

The study was pub­lished in The New England Journal of Medicine.




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