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Mediterranean Diet Appears to Lower Risk for Heart Disease

Update Date: Feb 25, 2013 10:46 AM EST

A mediterranean diet has often been praised for its high content of fish and good oils which are linked to healthy eating based off of observational studies throughout the years. According to a new study based on more evidence, a mediterranean-style diet can in fact lower one's chances of developing heart diseases. The study was published by the New England Journal of Medicine and the results found that when older people consumed mediterranean inspired meals, their chances of a stroke or developing heart diseases were significantly lower.

The study recruited 7,500 participants in Spain and was funded by the Spanish government's health research agency.  Over the course of five years, the participants were placed on different kinds of diet. The participants were split into three groups, two of them followed mediterranean-style diets, where as the last group followed a low fat diet. The participants on the mediterranean diets ate either nuts, such as walnuts, almonds, and hazelnuts or olive oil, more specifically extra virgin olive oil. The participants placed on a low fat diet ate more carbohydrates, fruits, vegetables, and fish, and less baked goods, nuts, oils, and meat. The people on the mediterranean diet, either a handful of nuts or four extra tablespoons of olive oil a day, had a 30 percent lower risk of heart complications than the other group. The researchers of the study performed lab tests on the participants to confirm that the groups were eating the recommended amounts of nuts and olive oil. 

The nuts and olive oil were provided by the researchers throughout the course of the study. Although the study did not create a rigorous menu or calorie guidelines for either groups, the low fat groups had a higher drop out rate than the mediterranean group. The participants were between the ages of 55 to 80 with over half of them being women. None of them had any heart diseases but had other health issues, such as diabetes, that have been linked to causing cardiovascular diseases. The majority of the participants were also taking medicine for high cholesterol and blood pressure, which they were told to continue taking during the study. 

Although the study did not find any relations between diets and death rates, it did conclude that the number of strokes were the lowest for participants on the nut concentrated mediterranean diet and the highest for the participants on the low fat diet. Despite the study, experts expressed concerns over whether or not the diets would be helpful without the assistance of the researchers, who provided the type of foods and the portions of the food. For example, if people consumed another kind of olive oil other than extra-virgin, the results may not have been as conclusive. However, the study does reveal that diet can greatly help prevent heart diseases and strokes. 

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