A study published today in the New England Journal of Medicine reveals that the Mediterranean Diet could actually help prevent cardiovascular disease and lower the risk of heart attack and stroke. 7447 participants were enrolled in the study and 57% were women. The study was conducted for 4.8 years. Participants were divided into three groups and the diets were broken into a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil, a Mediterranean diet supplemented with mixed nuts, or a control diet (advice to reduce dietary fat). The researchers stopped the study one they felt the results that they were getting were conclusive.
The findings showed that the risk of stroke was reduced in both groups following the Mediterranean diet. This was consistent with other studies according to the researchers that have shown a relationship between the use of olive oil and the reduction of stoke in other epidemiological studies. Another significant finding was that a low fat diet in women did not render any cardiovascular benefit.
The study points out that the things in the Mediterranean Diet that probably separate it from others is the use of moderate consumption of ethanol (mostly from wine), low consumption of meat and meat products, and high consumption of vegetables, fruits, nuts, legumes, fish, and olive oil. The researchers noted, “Perhaps there is a synergy among the nutrient-rich foods included in the Mediterranean diet that fosters favorable changes in intermediate pathways of cardiometabolic risk, such as blood lipids, insulin sensitivity, and resistance to oxidation, inflammation, and vasoreactivity.” Extra-virgin olive oil and nuts were probably responsible for most of the observed benefits of the Mediterranean diets that were used in the study. In conclusion the researched wrote, “We observed that an energy-unrestricted Mediterranean diet, supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil or nuts, resulted in a substantial reduction in the risk of major cardiovascular events among high-risk persons.”
For people who are looking for alternative diets the Mediterranean is a great one to consider. The findings from this study showed that 30% of all heart attacks, strokes and deaths from heart disease can be prevented in people at high risk if they switch to a Mediterranean diet rich in olive oil, nuts, beans, fish, fruits and vegetables, and drink wine in moderation with meals.
 Estruch, Ramon, MD, PhD and others. Primary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease with a Mediterranean Diet, February 25, 2013DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa1200303. http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1200303?query=featured_home#t=abstract