It seems that just about every week there’s a new diet craze, one that promises to not only save your life, but make you taller, smarter, and more beautiful. The problem with most of those diets is that there’s usually no science behind them, nothing that can back up their claims. Well, that’s changing. A new study reports that the Mediterranean diet—which all but eliminates red meat and is heavy on fish, fruit, nuts, olive oil, and wine—actually does prevent heart disease. It was even more effective than more traditional low-fat diets.
Spanish researcher Ramon Estruch and his colleagues had nearly 7,500 people in their study. The team randomly assigned participants to one of three groups. Mediterranean diet A (which included a daily supplement of four or more tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil, Mediterranean diet B (which included a daily supplement of an ounce of almonds, hazelnuts, and/or walnuts), and a control group that at a low-fat diet without nuts or olive oil.
Study participants (all of whom were either diabetic or had at least three of the big heart-disease risk factors: high blood pressure, high cholesterol, family history of early heart disease, or obesity) were tracked for five years. The researchers actually went so far as to take blood and urine samples from both of the Mediterranean groups to make sure they stuck with their diet. The results were quite convincing: People who at a Mediterranean diet were around 30 percent less likely to have heart disease and stroke. The nut-eating group did a little better than the oil-consuming one.
“As a doctor it is easier to say take a pill,” Estruch said. “But diet is a very powerful effect in protecting against cardiovascular disease.”
The study was published in the New England Journal of Medicine.