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Mediterranean Diet May Cancel Genetic Risk of Stroke

Update Date: Aug 13, 2013 12:22 PM EDT

New research reveals more reasons why you should switch to the Mediterranean diet today.

Scientist found that eating like an Italian or Spaniard may help lower the risk of stroke in patients with a genetic variant that puts them at risk for type 2 diabetes and metabolic disorders.

Researchers found that patients with this genetic risk who adhered to the Mediterranean diet did not have a higher risk of stroke compared to those without the variation.

In contrast, patients with the genetic risk who stuck to a low-fat were three times more likely to suffer strokes.

"Our study is the first to identify a gene-diet interaction affecting stroke in a nutrition intervention trial carried out over a number of years in thousands of men and women," researcher José M. Ordovás, Ph.D., director of the Nutrition and Genomics Laboratory at the USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, said in a news release.

"With the ability to analyze the relationship between diet, genetics and life-threatening cardiac events, we can begin to think seriously about developing genetic tests to identify people who may reduce their risk for chronic disease, or even prevent it, by making meaningful changes to the way they eat," Ordovás added.

Researchers studied more than 7,000 men and women.  Participants were assigned to eat either a Mediterranean diet or a low-fat diet for nearly five years. During the study period, researchers monitored participants for heart attack, stroke, heart disease and their adherence to the assigned diets.

Researchers also assessed participants to see if they carried a variant of the Transcription Factor 7-Like 2 gene, which is known to play a role in Type 2 diabetes risk. Study results show that 14 percent of the participants in the study had two copies of this gene variant, which put them at an increased for disease.

Besides lowering the risk for stroke among people with two copies of the genetic variant, the Mediterranean diet also appeared to benefit fasting glucose levels and other measures of heart disease risk.

"The Mediterranean diet appeared to compensate for genetic influence," co-researcher Dolores Corella, a scientist in the Genetic and Molecular Epidemiology Unit at the University of Valencia, said in a statement.

"If adherence to the diet was high, having two copies of the gene variant had no significant influence on fasting glucose levels. The same was true for three common measures of cardiovascular disease risk: total blood cholesterol, low density lipoprotein and triglycerides. Conversely, these risk factors were considerably higher in homozygous carriers with low adherence to the diet," Corella explained.

The findings are published in the journal Diabetes Care.

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