The Mediterranean Diet has long been lauded for its vast health benefits, often being deemed the healthiest of all diet styles. Heart health now joins fertility, Alzheimer’s, longevity, lower cholesterol, and even diabetes as some of the many ways this diet improves health, per a study released today in the New England Journal of Medicine.
The study found that there is a 30 percent decrease in the development of cardiac disease, including heart attack and stroke, when a Mediterranean Diet is followed. The New York Times reported it was “the first major clinical trial to measure the diet’s effect on heart risks. The magnitude of the diet’s benefits startled experts. The study ended early, after almost five years, because the results were so clear it was considered unethical to continue.”
The study involved 7,447 people in Spain, each with risk factors like overweight, smoking or diabetes, who were randomly put on a Mediterranean Diet or a low-fat diet. The results were overwhelmingly in favor of the Mediterranean diet, which is focused on eating fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and healthy fats from sources like olive oil, avocado, and fish. Even wine is included; in this study, one group was able to have seven glasses of wine each week. Dairy, red meat, and processed foods like bakery items are to be avoided or strictly limited.
This isn’t the first time the Mediterranean Diet has been linked with improving heart disease. We reported such findings in 2010, which found that the diet was “associated with higher heart rate variability (HRV), which is a measure of the time between a person’s heart beats. A lower variability in heart rate is a risk factor for coronary artery disease,” wrote Jason Knapfel.
Most impressive, according to the New York Times, the researchers say they learned so much from this study hat they have adopted Mediterranean eating habits themselves.