A new study shows that following the Southern European Atlantic Diet, or Portuguese-style diet may also help protect the heart.
Residents of northern Portugal and a region in northwest Spain are reported to have very low rates of death from heart disease, similar to those of France, Italy and Greece, where people tend to stick to a Mediterranean-style diet rich in fruits and vegetables, olive oil, whole grains and nuts, and relatively low in dairy products and red meat.
The Southern European Atlantic Diet, the traditional diet of northern Portugal, consists of lots of fish, especially cod; red meat; pork; dairy products; legumes; vegetables; potatoes; and wine with meals.
To investigate whether this eating pattern might have something to do with the low heart disease risk in the region, researchers looked at over 800 people who suffered a heart attack and over 2000 people who'd never suffered a heart attack who lived in the same area.
People whose diets adhered most closely to the Southern European Atlantic Diet (SEAD) were at 33 percent lower risk of heart attack compared to those whose eating patterns were the least adherent, the researchers found.
Every one-point increase on the 9-point scale (with 9 indicating the most adherent) was associated with a whopping 10-percent lower risk of heart disease.
But the researchers also found this traditional pattern might benefit from a little tweaking. When they rated participants' diet based on adherence to the SEAD but took away points for red meat, pork and potatoes, they found those who followed this pattern most closely were at 60 percent lower risk of having a heart attack.
While more research is needed, the diet shows promise for protecting against heart disease. The findings were published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
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