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Study praises Mediterranean diet

12 February 2014 08:53

A Mediterranean diet can help lower the risk of heart attack and cardiovascular-related death

A Mediterranean diet can help lower the risk of heart attack and cardiovascular-related death

A whole diet approach rich in whole grains and fish such as that found traditionally in the Mediterranean is much better than a low-fat diet when it comes to staying healthy, it is claimed.

New analysis of more than 50 years of data reveals that people who adopt a whole diet approach have a lower risk of heart attack and cardiovascular-related death than those who follow a strictly low-fat diet.

The researchers, from the College of Medicine at the University of Arizona, analysed studies dating from 1957 to the present day that looked closely at the relationship between food and heart disease.

They note that early studies linked high levels of serum cholesterol to higher intake of saturated fat, and in turn, increased rates of coronary heart disease.

Findings such as this caused the American Heart Association to recommend that individuals should limit fat intake to less than 30% of daily calories, while limiting saturated fat to 10% of daily calories and cholesterol to less than 300 mg a day.

Although the research team admit that a low-fat diet may lower cholesterol, their findings show that people who followed a whole diet approach had a greater reduction in cardiovascular death and non-fatal heart attacks than those who followed a strictly low-fat diet.

The Mediterranean diet, in particular, was found to be a very effective whole diet approach to staying healthy.

This mainly focuses on increasing intake of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, pasta and fish, consuming products made from vegetable and plant oils, and eating less meat. But while the diet incorporates foods that are low in saturated fat, it also encourages intake of monounsaturated fats that are known to lower cholesterol.

"Nearly all clinical trials in the 1960s, 70s and 80s compared usual diets to those characterised by low total fat, low saturated fat, low dietary cholesterol, and increased polyunsaturated fats," said Dr James Dalen.

"These diets did reduce cholesterol levels. However they did not reduce the incidence of myocardial infarction or coronary heart disease deaths."

Obviously, Mediterranean countries are the best place to sample the delights of a Mediterranean diet.

If you're heading on holiday with a pre-existing medical condition, such as heart disease, don't forget to protect yourself with pre-existing medical condition travel insurance.