Following a diet high in fruit, nuts, vegetables, fish, whole grains, and essential fats found in olive oil, improve the heart health of those susceptible to heart-related problems. This Mediterranean-style eating habit features little to no red meat or dairy products.
The Spanish study examined 7,500 people aged between 55 and 80 who were considered to be at high-risk of heart disease, and was stopped early (just shy of five years) due to the overwhelmingly clear results. The participants, none of which had any record of heart disease, were assigned to one of there groups; two of which followed different versions of a Mediterranean diet (one rich in extra virgin olive oil, the other in walnuts, almonds, and hazelnuts), and the third following a western style low fat diet heavy in pasta, rice, fish, vegetables, and potatoes.
In the Mediterranean diet, participants ate five servings of fruit and vegetables a week, fish three times weekly, and either additional olive oil or nuts throughout the day. White meat was encouraged over red meat, and legumes including beans, peas and lentils, were also suggested at least three times a week.
Drinkers were advised to cut back to only one glass of wine a day with their meals, while processed and packaged foods were to be avoided as much as possible.
“Interim analysis” results showed that 288 “events” such as heart attack, stroke, or heart-related deaths occurred during this time, with 96 of these in the Mediterranean plus olive oil diet, 83 in the Mediterranean plus nuts diet, and 109 in the low-fat group.
The New England Journal of Medicine noted that people following a Mediterranean-style diet were 30 percent less likely to suffer heart attack, stroke or heart-related death compared with those on a low-fat diet.