—A Special Report from Victor Marchione, MD
OK — more positive press about the Mediterranean diet. If you’re unfamiliar with this diet, here’s a quick breakdown for you:
–Lots of plant foods
–Fresh fruit for dessert
–High consumption of beans, nuts, cereals and seeds
–Olive oil as the main source of dietary fat
–Cheese and yogurt as the main dairy foods
–Moderate amounts of fish and poultry
–No more than about four eggs each week
–Small amounts of red meat each week (compared to northern Europe and the U.S.)
–Low to moderate amounts of wine
–25% to 35% of calorie intake consists of monounsaturated fat
–Saturated fat makes up no more than eight percent of calorie intake
The Mediterranean diet has been shown in numerous studies to help shield people from heart disease and cancer. The average American diet has high red meat consumption, a greater consumption of butter and animal fats, and a lower intake of fruit and vegetables, compared to the diets of Italy, Greece, southern France, and Spain — so it makes sense that the Mediterranean diet would be better for overall health.
However, a recent study proves that, even for people who already have heart disease, a Mediterranean diet can be beneficial. A research team looked at 1,000 patients who had suffered heart attacks or severe chest pain. They rated each patient on a scale of 0 to 55 based on how closely their eating matched the Mediterranean ideal. Almost half of the patients experienced a second heart-related event within two years after their original hospital discharge.
But what the researchers discovered at this point was that patients with the most Mediterranean-style diets were at 31% lower risk of suffering another heart attack or experiencing chest pain during the first month after they were discharged from the hospital. And that’s not all: they were only half as likely as those with the least Mediterranean-like eating habits to have another heart-related event within a year, and nearly 40% less likely to experience repeat heart problems within two years!
According to the researchers, for every additional point on the 55-point “Mediterranean Diet Score,” a person’s risk of having another heart-related event over the next two years fell by 12%.
When the researchers looked at different foods from the Mediterranean diet separately, they found that vegetables and salad and nuts were the only foods that cut risk. It seems that people who ate vegetables and salad or nuts daily or weekly had a 20% lower risk of repeat heart problems within two years of their initial hospitalization compared to people who ate these foods monthly or less often.
So, there you have it: even if you find it difficult to switch wholeheartedly to the Mediterranean diet, try to at least add vegetables, salad and nuts to your weekly diet.