It's long been known that people living near the Mediterranean have low rates of heart disease.
Their diet includes plenty of fruits and vegetables, healthy fats such as olive and canola oil, small portions of nuts, red wine in moderation, fish, and very little red meat.
Now a review of previously published studies from McMaster University in Hamilton confirms that a Mediterranean diet is indeed good for your heart.
The researchers pooled the results of 146 prospective cohort studies (looking back on the habits of a particular group of individuals) and 43 randomized controlled trials (where participants are randomly assigned to a dietary intervention or a control group) to determine the strength of the evidence supporting the relationship between many foods and nutrients and the risk of coronary heart disease.
The report concluded there was strong evidence for cardio-protective factors, including vegetables, nuts, monounsaturated fats and a Mediterranean dietary pattern. There was also strong evidence supporting the harmful effects of trans-fatty acids and foods with a high glycemic index.
In addition, the strength of the evidence was modest for a protective effect of fish, omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil, folate, whole grains, fruits, and fiber. The evidence only weakly supported the harmful effects of saturated fat, meat, eggs and milk.
Overall, heart disease risk may be reduced by 30 percent if a person follows the Mediterranean pattern of eating.
According to the study's authors, the key message from this analysis is that the Mediterranean diet works as a package deal. The heart benefits come from an overall pattern of eating. Picking just one vitamin or one food won't do much good, says the author of this study.
For more information on nutrition strategies for heart disease, check out Heart Healthy Foods for Life by Leslie Beck, RD.
This study appeared in the April 13, 2009 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.
All research on this web site is the property of Leslie Beck Nutrition Consulting Inc. and is protected by copyright. Keep in mind that research on these matters continues daily and is subject to change. The information presented is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. It is intended to provide ongoing support of your healthy lifestyle practices.