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Higher fat Mediterranean diet cuts risk of heart attack and stroke

28 February, 2013

Natural Health News — A Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil or tree nuts substantially reduces the risk of suffering a cardiovascular death, a myocardial infarction or a stroke.

The research published in The New England Journal of Medicine is part of a larger research project called PREDIMED, a multicentre trial carried out between 2003 and 2011 to study the effects of the Mediterranean diet on the primary prevention of cardiovascular diseases.

A total of 7,447 people with major cardiovascular risk factors participated in the study. They were divided into three dietary intervention groups: a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil, a Mediterranean diet supplemented with nuts (walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts), and a low-fat diet (animal and vegetable).

A dietitian visited the patients every three months and they attended dietary training group sessions, in which they received detailed information about the Mediterranean and the low-fat diet, and the food included in each one. Moreover, they were provided with shopping lists, menus and recipes adapted to each type of diet and each season of the year.

During the study, those participants who followed any of the two types of Mediterranean diet received freely extra-virgin olive oil (1ltr, or 2 pints, per week), or nuts (30g per day total comprised of 15g walnuts, 7.5 g almonds and 7.5 g hazelnuts).

After five years, the Spanish researchers found that participants who followed any of the two types of Mediterranean diet showed a 30% reduction in the risk of suffering a cardiovascular death, a myocardial infarction or a stroke.

This, they say, is proof that a high-vegetable fat diet is healthier for the heart and cardiovascular system than a low-fat diet, challenging the dogma that it is necessary to reduce fats in order to improve cardiovascular health.

This is the second recent trial to challenge our preconceptions about dietary fat. Earlier this month a study in the British Medical Journal showed that that replacing saturated animal fats with omega-6 polyunsaturated vegetable fats was linked to an increased risk of death among patients with heart disease.