The Mediterranean diet has been shown to help prevent heart disease, but now new research suggests it may also be beneficial for people who already have heart problems.
Heart-healthy fiber, fish, fruits, vegetables and unsaturated “good” fats (particularly olive oil) are major features of the Mediterranean diet. It includes moderate amounts of alcohol and is low in meats, dairy products and saturated fats.
A recent study examined 1,000 patients who had experienced heart attacks or severe chest pain while at rest or with mild exertion. The participants answered questions about their eating habits, and the researchers rated their diets on a scale of 0 to 55, based on how closely the subjects followed the Mediterranean diet.
By the end of the two-year follow-up period, nearly half of the patients had additional heart problems. However, patients with the highest Mediterranean diet scores had a significantly reduced risk of having future heart-related problems compared to those with the lowest scores.
After one month, patients with the highest scores were 31 percent less likely to experience repeat heart problems than those with the lowest scores. The relative risk was about 50 percent less after one year and almost 40 percent less after two years on the Mediterranean diet. The authors estimated that a person’s risk of experiencing another heart problems dropped by 12 percent for every additional point on the diet scale.
The Mediterranean diet was also associated with better left ventricular systolic function. As a result, their hearts were able to pump blood more efficiently. In addition, people who followed the diet were less likely to experience cardiac remodeling, or harmful changes in the heart’s structure.
While the results of the study are promising, additional research is needed to determine the specific aspects of the diet that may be responsible for the beneficial effects.
For more information about the Mediterranean diet, please visit Natural Standard’s Health & Wellness database.
The Library also has books available on Mediterrean Diets. Here’s a sampling: