We have written about the Mediterranean Diet before. This is a “safe and sane” diet that focuses on fresh fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts and olive oil. One of my favorite aspects is the recommendation of a glass of red wine with dinner. You trade out red meat for fish and fowl, but otherwise you aren't kept away from too much delicious food. New research shows that the Mediterranean Diet can save your life by protecting you from heart attack, stroke and heart disease. Want the best for your body? Adopt the Mediterranean Diet with extra dollop of extra virgin olive oil.
The lead researcher on this study was Dr. Ramón Estruch, from the Department of Internal Medicine at the Hospital Clinic of Barcelona, Spain. The results were just published in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine. Expect a guest appearance on Dr. Oz in the coming weeks.
The study followed 7,400 volunteers over a five year period. The volunteers were men between 55 and 80 years old and women between 60 and 80 years old. There were slightly more women than men. Each participant was randomly assigned to one of the three groups, with the same number of people in each group.
The control group was asked to follow a low-fat diet. The second group was asked to follow a Mediterranean Diet with the addition of nuts, about 30 grams of walnuts, hazelnuts and almonds a day. The third group followed a Mediterranean Diet with the addition of extra virgin olive oil, about 4 tablespoons every day. All three groups received periodic follow-up visits from doctors over the course of the study.
At the end of the study period, it was observed that the group following the Mediterranean Diet plus extra virgin olive oil had a 30% lower risk of heart attack, stroke, or death due to heart disease than the low fat diet group. The group following the Mediterranean Diet plus nuts had a 28% lower risk of these same issues.
The researchers credit the polyphenols and tocopherols in extra virgin olive oil for reducing inflammation that leads to heart disease. The nuts contain lower levels of anti-inflammatories, so the beneficial impact was reduced.
So what is the take-away from this research? Clearly the Mediterranean Diet is good for your heart health. The addition of extra virgin olive oil and/or nuts seems to make the diet even more effective. Plus, both additions are delicious. This seems like a great way to control your weight and live long enough to enjoy it!