The New England Journal of Medicine reported on Monday that heart attacks and strokes can be decreased by following a Mediterranean style diet. The Mediterranean diet is rich in olive oil, nuts, beans, fish, fruits and vegetables and even wine with meals.
The study conducted by Dr. Ramon Estruch of the University of Barcelona was long in planning. Eventually it was decided to randomly assign subjects at high risk of heart disease into three groups. One group was given a low fat diet and the other two groups were instructed on the Mediterranean diet. One group of the Mediterranean diet was given 4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil four times a day. The other group received walnuts, almonds and hazelnuts and instructions to eat an ounce per day. Additionally the participants ate three servings of fruit a day, two servings of vegetables, fish three times a week and legumes (beans, peas and lentils) at least three times a week. Red meat was eliminated from their diet but wine was permitted with meals. Commercially made pastry products were avoided and dairy products and processed meats were limited.
The study reported that those assigned to the low fat diet did not lower “their fat intake very much.” So the study wound up comparing the usual modern diet consisting of red meat, sodas and commercial baked goods with a diet that avoided all those things.
The results were remarkable. Dr. Estruch said “this is actually really surprising to us.”
So what exactly is a Mediterranean diet? To the right I have inserted the Mediterranean Diet Food Pyramid prepared by Oldways. Here you can see that physical activity and drinking water play an important role in this diet. Fruits, vegetables, grains, olive oil, beans, nuts, legumes, seeds, herbs and spices should be consumed at every meal. Fish and seafood twice a week. Red meats and sweets “less often.”
For more information on the study as reported in the New England Journal of Medicine, please visit http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1200303?query=featured_home#t=article.