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Mediterranean diet may lower heart attack risk - study

February 25, 2013 12:00:00 AM PST
The diet that's got many heart specialists talking today is the Mediterranean Diet. It's an eating style that emphasizes vegetables, fruits, fish, olive oil and nuts. And the reason there's such a buzz surrounding has to do with the latest research showing its effect on the heart.

Experts met at the 6th International Congress on Vegetarian Nutrition at Loma Linda Linda University Medical Center and discussed a landmark global study published in the New England Journal of Medicine. The study shows that eating a Mediterranean diet reduces the risk of heart attack, stroke and other heart-related deaths by 30 percent. Doctors say if this were a drug it would be called a "blockbuster."

"They experienced a 30-percent reduction in risk in just five years. This is a powerful message," said Dr. Miguel Angel Martinez, University of Navarra, Spain.

The study followed nearly 7,500 people in Spain, all considered high-risk for cardiovascular problems. Half were told to eat a low-fat diet. The other half followed a Mediterranean diet rich in nuts, extra-virgin olive oil, fruits and vegetables. It was even recommended those who drink alcohol consume seven glasses of wine a week.

The results were so dramatic that researchers ended the study a year and a half early so all could benefit.

"We stopped the trial for ethical reasons," said Martinez.

Numerous studies have revealed the heart-healthy benefits of eating olive oil and walnuts, but experts say the Mediterranean Diet is much more than that.

"You have to change the overall dietary pattern," said Martinez.

The subjects in the study did not lose weight, but found benefits nonetheless.

This latest "thumbs up" on the Mediterranean Diet does not give us a license to snack.

Experts caution that you shouldn't start doing things like adding nuts to salads without taking something out of it that has the same amount of calories.

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