Mediterranean Diet Reduces Risk of Major Cardiovascular Events, Stroke by 30%

A Mediterranean diet including extra-virgin olive oil or mixed nuts cuts the risk of stroke and other major cardiovascular events by as much as 30 percent among those at high-risk, according to a study recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

While there have been numerous studies on the cardiovascular benefits of the Mediterranean diet, this study deserves careful attention because of its meticulous design. It followed a large population of 7,447 people in Spain over a long period (five years). Participants ranged in age from 55 to 80; 57 percent were women.

In the study, high-risk participants with no cardiovascular disease were randomly placed on one of three diets:

• a Mediterranean diet supplemented with at least four tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil daily;

• a Mediterranean diet supplemented with a mix of walnuts, almonds and hazelnuts (30 grams a day); or

• a control diet of reduced dietary fat consisting of fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy, bread, pasta and fish.

Participants on the Mediterranean diet met regularly with dietitians to ensure they adhered to the eating plan. Some also underwent semi-annual blood and urine tests to measure their consumption of olive oil and nuts.

Researchers found that those in the two Mediterranean diet groups had a 30 percent greater reduction in relative risk of a heart attack, stroke or death from cardiovascular disease. The low-fat diet group did well, but not as well as the other two groups.

These results are encouraging and further confirm the positive effect of a Mediterranean diet, supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil or nuts, in significantly reducing the risk of major cardiovascular events. It’s another reminder that the composition and combination of whole foods in the diet are probably more important than trying to reduce the risk of stroke and heart attacks with dietary supplements.





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