Never Too Late to Master the Mediterranean Diet
Is it ever too late to benefit from going Mediterranean? No!
Health experts have been touting the Mediterranean diet's heart healthy benefits for years. What if you already have heart disease or have had a heart attack? Is it ever too late to benefit from going Mediterranean? Fortunately, no!
Measuring diet details
Researchers enrolled 1,000 people into a study on diet and heart disease at the time they were admitted to the hospital for acute coronary syndrome (symptoms indicating a heart attack or chest pain caused when coronary artery disease prevents sufficient blood supply to the heart). Of the 1,000 participants, 459 had left ventricular systolic dysfunction, which is an indication of more severe heart disease.
The researchers gathered diet and lifestyle information within three days of each person's hospital admittance. Each person received a diet score based on how closely he or she followed a Mediterranean diet, defined as eating mostly whole grains, fruit and nuts, vegetables, olive oil, nonfat or low-fat dairy products, fish, potatoes, legumes (beans and peas), and moderate alcohol use (approximately 2 drinks per day). The more closely a person followed a Mediterranean diet, the higher his or her dietary score.
Mediterranean fare feeds a healthier heart
People with the highest Mediterranean diet scores had 7% lower likelihood of developing left ventricular systolic dysfunction compared with those with the lowest diet scores. During the two years of follow-up, those with a high Mediterranean diet score were 12% less likely to experience additional heart disease events, such as a heart attack, compared with those with a low Mediterranean diet score.
This study does not prove cause and effect but it does suggest that even with existing heart disease, eating a Mediterranean diet may protect the heart from further damage. Not only are there no known downsides to going Mediterranean, this type of eating pattern also may protect against declining brain function with age (dementia) and some types of cancer.
How to eat Mediterranean style
To keep your ticker in tip-top shape, up the Mediterranean fare.
(Am J Clin Nutr; e-pub ahead of print July 2010)
Suzanne Dixon, MPH, MS, RD, an author, speaker, and internationally recognized expert in chronic disease prevention, epidemiology, and nutrition, has taught medical, nursing, public health, and alternative medicine coursework. She has delivered over 150 invited lectures to health professionals and consumers and is the creator of a nutrition website acclaimed by the New York Times and Time magazine. Suzanne received her training in epidemiology and nutrition at the University of Michigan, School of Public Health at Ann Arbor.