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By Rachel Bluth, Kaiser Health News
Again, your mother was right. You really need to eat your vegetables. And while you’re on it, put down bacon and pick up the olive oil, for new research supports the claim of switching to a Mediterranean diet can significantly reduce the risk of heart disease.
According to a study published Friday in JAMA Networks that are open, people who followed this type of diet had a 25 percent less risk of developing cardiovascular disease for 1
The components of the diet are sensible for anyone who follows nutrition news. Avoid red meat in favor of “good” fats like fish and poultry. Replace salt for herbs and spices. Ditch butter and margarine and instead choose olive oil. Most importantly, eat a lot of fruits and vegetables. Nuts are good, so are whole grains. And every time you have a glass of red wine.
Since the 1950’s, researchers have pointed out the potential cardiovascular benefits of this diet. More recently, it has been credited with addressing a number of diseases including Alzheimer’s disease and asthma, and helping pregnant women control factors that lead to high birth weight children and contribute to obesity risk factors as children grow.
However, Friday’s study had no randomized attempts in the United States to determine the long-term effects of the diet. This research also attempted to throw light on the molecular founders why.
The mechanisms that Mediterranean diet reduces cardiovascular disease “was kind of a black box”, says Shafqat Ahmad, author of the newspaper, and a researcher at the Ministry of Enterprise at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health. “We know that the reduced cardiovascular risk,” he added, but the exact ways that it had this effect over time “is not well understood.”
Ahmad and his co-author, who used a panel of nine biomarkers in blood samples, were able to isolate exactly why the diet reduces heart disease.
The three major biological mechanisms were changes in inflammation, blood sugar and body mass index.
Inflammation was the question of Meg Grigoletti, a 23-year-old New Jersey graduate who switched to a Mediterranean diet when recovering from surgery in 2014. Her doctor recommended to reduce swelling, hoping it would alleviate the pain in my back and help me migraine.
“It’s more of a lifestyle than a diet,” said Grigoletti. “It taught me what food is good for me and what’s not”.
Researchers followed more than 25,000 women who were part of women’s health survey, a survey of female healthcare professionals over 45 years. At the beginning of the study, participants completed a questionnaire of 131 different foods to assess their diets. They were then awarded “scoring” on a scale from 1 to 9, based on how closely they followed the Mediterranean diet.
There were three levels. People reaching between zero and 3 were at the low end, 4 to 5 in the middle and 6 and up were categorized as a high intake of Mediterranean food.
The participants’ cardiovascular health was tracked for 12 years.
After all, they had seen a risk reduction of 23 percent and the upper category had a 28 percent lower risk of cardiovascular disease.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, claiming approximately 600,000 lives each year. Coronary heart disease is the most common form and kills more than 370,000 people annually. Every year, about 735,000 Americans have a heart attack.
The authors pointed out that these findings have limitations. For example, the study was based on self-reported data, which is not always correct – especially when it comes to dietary choices. Participants, all of whom were female healthcare professionals, may also lean towards healthier behaviors than the rest of the population.
The results of the study were not a shock to Dr. Andrew Freeman, Director of Cardiovascular Prevention and Well-Being at the National Jewish Health Hospital in Denver. He was not involved in the study but has recommended a Mediterranean diet, or a similar version that emphasizes vegetables and fruits, to their patients for several years.
“There is a lot of noise out there, but the signal that has been out where the longest is this type of herbal diet is the best.”
He also acknowledged that very competing nutrition information revolves around the airwaves and the internet, which corresponds to ” a lot of hype “and making it healthy eating habits is a difficult way for many consumers.
And doctors often do not have clear information. “The vast majority of cardiologists and healthcare professionals generally have very little nutritional training,” Freeman said.
He switched to a mostly herbal diet after his residence, and lost 35 pounds. He now recommends this approach to his patients as well. He said he has seen the condition of his patients – heart disease, hypertension and diabetes – improved.
“Nutrition and lifestyle medicine is the place where it is possible to cure,” Freeman said.
Kaiser Health News is an ideal news service that covers health issues. It is an editorial independent program of the Kaiser Family Foundation that is not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.