Mediterranean diet may prevent obesity and death risk in heart disease

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A recent study from Uppsala University reveals that adherence to a Mediterranean-like diet could significantly alter the relationship between obesity and cardiovascular disease (CVD)-related mortality.

The research was led by Karl Michaëlsson and published in PLOS Medicine.

The study followed 79,003 Swedish adults, assessing their body mass index (BMI), dietary patterns, and mortality rates.

Adherence to a Mediterranean-like diet was evaluated on a scale from 0 to 8, taking into account consumption of fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, unrefined or high-fiber grains, fish, red and processed meat, and olive oil. The study had a 21-year follow-up period.

Key Findings

Out of the participants, 30,389 (38%) died during the follow-up period.

Among overweight individuals, those with high adherence to a Mediterranean-like diet had the lowest risk of death.

Obese individuals with high adherence to a Mediterranean-like diet did not have a significantly higher risk of death compared to those with normal weight and similar dietary habits.

Conversely, people with a normal BMI but low adherence to the Mediterranean-like diet faced a higher risk of death.

CVD-Specific Findings

  • 12,064 of the total deaths were due to CVD.
  • High BMI-associated CVD death risk was reduced but not entirely neutralized by following a Mediterranean-like diet.


The results indicate that focusing on adhering to healthy diets like the Mediterranean diet may be more beneficial than merely focusing on weight loss for reducing overall mortality and specifically CVD death risk.

This challenges the conventional wisdom that obesity in and of itself is the main culprit for increased CVD-related deaths.

While the study provides valuable insights into how diet can modify the risks associated with high BMI, it’s important to consider that this is an observational study.

As such, it can show correlations but cannot prove causality. Further research is needed to understand the underlying mechanisms that could explain these findings.

Additional Resources

For those interested in understanding how diet affects health outcomes, further studies are available exploring other dietary patterns and their impact on various health conditions.

The study is an essential addition to growing literature highlighting the importance of diet quality in mitigating the adverse health outcomes associated with obesity.

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