Scientists from the (Prevención con Dieta Mediterránea) Network found that eating the Mediterranean diet with extra-virgin olive oil or nuts may help prevent heart disease events.
Heart disease events included stroke (fatal and nonfatal), coronary heart disease (fatal and nonfatal myocardial infarction or coronary heart disease death), or heart failure hospitalization (fatal or nonfatal).
Previous research has found that eating the Mediterranean diet is linked to a lower heart disease risk.
The Mediterranean diet is a way of eating that’s based on the traditional cuisines of Greece, Italy, and other countries that border the Mediterranean Sea.
Plant-based foods, such as whole grains, vegetables, legumes, fruits, nuts, seeds, herbs, and spices, are the foundation of the diet.
In the current study, researchers aimed to test the benefits of the Mediterranean diet with extra-virgin olive oil or nuts.
Extra virgin olive oil is the least processed variety and is often considered to be the healthiest type of olive oil.
Extra virgin olive oil is loaded with heart-healthy fats and antioxidants, making it a great addition to a nutritious diet.
It may protect against inflammation, heart disease, breast cancer, and type 2 diabetes.
Nuts and seeds are good sources of protein, healthy fats, fibers, vitamins, and minerals. They regulate body weight as their fats are not fully absorbed, they regulate food intake and help burn energy.
Nuts and seeds contain unsaturated fats and other nutrients that provide protective effects against heart disease.
The team assigned 7447 participants (55 to 80 years of age, 57% women) who were at high heart disease risk to one of three diets:
A Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil, a Mediterranean diet supplemented with mixed nuts, or a low-fat diet.
Participants received educational sessions and, depending on group assignment, free provision of extra-virgin olive oil, mixed nuts, or small non-food gifts.
During a follow-up of 5 years, 288 participants experienced heart disease events.
There were 96 events in the Mediterranean diet with extra-virgin olive oil group (3.8%), 83 in the group eating a Mediterranean diet with nuts (3.4%), and 109 in the low-fat diet group (4.4%).
The team found that compared with people eating the low-fat diet, people who ate the Mediterranean diet with extra-virgin olive oil and the Mediterranean diet with nuts had lower heart disease risks.
Based on the findings, the team concluded that in people with a high risk of heart disease, a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil or nuts may help prevent heart disease events.
The research is published in The New England Journal of Medicine and was conducted by Ramón Estruch et al.
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