Can The Mediterranean Diet Really Help You Live Longer?
A new study has found that eating a Mediterranean diet could be better than statins at cutting the risk of an early death from cardiovascular disease. The Italian team looked at the diet of 1,200 patients, all of whom had a history of heart attacks, strokes or blocked arteries. They were advised to eat a Mediterranean diet, rich in fruit, vegetables, fish and olive oil. They were tracked for a period of seven years and in that time 208 patients died. Those who had followed the diet were 37 per cent less likely to have died than those who didn’t.
Experts think that the diet’s protective benefits come from the omega-3 and mono-unsaturated fatty acids.
More than seven million people in the UK are living with heart conditions. These patients are usually prescribed statins which lower their cholesterol levels and are proven to save lives. A review in 2013 involving 200,000 patients indicated that statins cut the chances of early death from cardiovascular disease by 18 per cent.
Whilst this new study shows that the Mediterranean diet could be a powerful treatment for heart patients, scientists warn that people already prescribed statins should not stop taking them without consulting their doctor.
Other Studies into the Mediterranean Diet and Heart Disease
A study published recently in the New England Journal of Medicine suggested that as many as 30% of heart-related deaths could be avoided by switching to a Mediterranean diet.
The study involved over 7,000 participants in Spain, all aged between 55 to 80 years old, and followed them for 5 years. All those involved had risk factors for heart disease, but were not diagnosed with heart disease at the start of the study. They were divided into two groups; one which followed a low-fat diet, the other which followed a Mediterranean diet. Those who followed the Mediterranean way of eating were less likely to develop heart related conditions than the other group.
Helping You to Age Healthily?
In addition to keeping your heart healthy, a further study suggests that the diet will help you to avoid other health conditions too. Data collected as part of the Nurses’ Health Study, one of the longest running pieces of research examining women’s health, indicated that the Mediterranean diet could help avoid chronic diseases, mental health issues, and cognitive and physical impairment.
The actual statistics, gathered over a 15 year period, indicated that women with healthy diets were 34% more likely to age without suffering any significant disease or illness, and those following the Mediterranean diet were 46% more likely.
Although the study didn’t specifically focus on what makes the Mediterranean way of eating so beneficial in terms of health, researchers suggested that it may be due to the fact that the diet helps to lower inflammation within the body.
The researchers commented: ‘Better diet quality at midlife seems to be strongly linked to greater health and well-being in persons surviving to older ages.’
How to Eat Like A Mediterranean
Whilst studies still continue to explore the benefits of the Mediterranean way of eating, there certainly seems evidence to believe that the diet can help improve your health. If you’d like to start incorporating more of a Mediterranean style diet into your everyday menu planning, here’s a brief guide:
- Eat plenty of fruit and vegetables; at least five portions a day
- Eat fish at least three times a week
- Eat legumes, such as lentils or beans, at least three times a week
- Avoid red meat and stick to white meat instead
- Use extra virgin olive oil to cook with
- Eat unsalted nuts
- If you want to drink alcohol, drink one glass of red wine a day
- Limit how much sweet, sugary food you eat
Professor Giovanni de Gaetano from the Italian study team said: “First of all doctors should consider diet before drugs.” He added that if more doctors advised patients to change their diet, statin use may be reduced. He suggested that Government subsidies would make it easier for people to follow the Mediterranean diet.
“The problem is that the NHS pays for drugs, but it does not pay for vegetables and fruit.”
Professor Jeremy Pearson, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation states: “It is good to know that even if you already have a history of cardiovascular disease, adhering to a Mediterranean diet reduces the risk of death.”
To read our earlier articles on how the Mediterranean diet can help your overall health, please click on the links below:
If you would like help or advice from the British Heart Foundation, please click on the link below: