Portuguese-style diet shows promise for heart health benefits

June 3, 2010 in Heart Health, Nutrition Topics in the News

Portuguese-style diet shows promise for heart health benefits
You've likely heard of the many healthy benefits of the Mediterranean diet - but now there's a new diet making waves when it comes to heart health.
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.

Looking for ways to boost your hearth health?  Check out Leslie Beck's book Heart Healthy Foods for Life.

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.