All calories are not equal, nor are all fats -- that's at least part of what a seven-year study of the Mediterranean diet versus a low-fat diet revealed. The study's report, published Monday in the New England Journal of Medicine has health and nutrition experts excited, although not all in a positive manner. The researchers themselves pointed out that the conclusions of the study point to the benefit of the Mediterranean diet in lowering cardiovascular disease in health adults with high-risk factors for the disease, but additional study will be needed to learn what, if any, benefits this eating style might provide to people with lower risk for heart disease.
Primary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease with a Mediterranean Diet Study Design
More than 7,000 study participants, ranging in age from 55 to 80 years old for men and 60 to 80 years old for women were randomly placed in one of three diet groups.
To be eligible to participate in the study, men and women in these age groups had to be free of cardiovascular disease and have either type 2 diabetes or three of known heart disease risk factors including high blood pressure, smoking, overweight or obesity, family history of early coronary heart disease, elevated LDL level, and/or low HDL level.
The three diets studied included the control group diet, identified by the researchers as a low-fat diet; the Mediterranean diet with the use of extra virgin olive added and the Mediterranean diet with walnuts, almonds and hazelnuts added.
Mediterranean Diet Study Results Clear Indication of Heart Health Benefits
In the study, participants who followed the two Mediterranean diets enjoyed a 30 percent lower risk of having a heart attack, stroke or death due to cardiovascular disease than participants in the control group. With heart disease being the leading cause of death in the United States, along with the prevalence of type 2 diabetes and overweight and obesity, this study's results offer good news for reducing one's risk to experience two of the most dreaded health occurrences, heart attack and stroke.
Not All Health Experts Are on Board with Study Conclusions
Dr. Dean Ornish , involved in clinical research for more than three decades, developer and advocate of the Ornish Spectrum , a low-fat diet, challenges the assertion that the Mediterranean diet is better for your heart health than a low-fat diet and additionally challenges this study's design as being able to back up those conclusions. Ornish noted that the control group's diet was not truly low-fat by any standards and certainly nowhere near his determined criteria for low-fat eating.
Larry Husten , a medical journalist, expressed his views on Ornish's comments at Forbes.com by stating that unlike the Ornish diet, which few but the most dedicated individuals have been able to adhere to over the long haul, the Mediterranean diet has been followed by people in certain Mediterranean regions for generations, making it more amenable to adopt and follow long-term.
The American Heart Association wanted to remind people of its stance on the Mediterranean diet, a diet close, but not exactly, to the standard of the AHA's own recommended diet.
This is not the first study to point out the benefits of the Mediterranean style diet, but it lends increased credibility and motivation to adopt this eating style as your own.
- Heart & Vascular Disorders
- Mediterranean diet
- cardiovascular disease