While we often hear and assume that a low-fat diet is better for you when it comes to heart disease, a closer look at the evidence suggests that a Mediterranean-style diet which has moderate fat levels mainly from olive oil, provides more protection for the heart.

A new study that analyzed research from 1957 until now, found more evidence that a whole-diet, and particularly the Mediterranean diet, resulted in greater reduction of death due to heart disease and heart attacks than a low-fat diet.

The investigators from the University of Arizona and Northwestern University found that, although a low-fat diet may lower cholesterol levels, it did not appear to lower the risk of heart attacks and deaths from coronary heart disease.

They concluded that the last fifty years of epidemiology and clinical trials have established a clear link between diet, atherosclerosis and cardiovascular events and a that “whole diet” approach of the Mediterranean diet is more effective in preventing cardiovascular disease than a low-fat, low cholesterol diet. The authors noted that encouraging the consumption of olive oil over butter and cream, while increasing the amount of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, and fish, promises to be more effective.

Apart from the much-publicized PREDIMED study which showed that a Mediterranean-style diet was more effective in reducing the risk of heart attack and stroke by 30 percent compared to a low-fat diet, yet another analysis published in the American Journal of Medicine in 2011, conducted by a group of researchers from the U.S., Spain, Switzerland, Israel and Canada, also concluded that a Mediterranean diet appeared to be more effective than low-fat diets in generating positive long-term changes in cardiovascular risk factors.

The researchers included in their analysis only randomized, controlled trials comparing Mediterranean to low-fat diets in overweight or obese individuals, with a minimum follow-up of six months.

The results of their analysis showed that following a Mediterranean diet resulted in more favorable changes in body weight, body mass index, systolic blood pressure, diastolic blood pressure and glucose levels compared to low-fat diets.

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