NPR : News

Filed Under:

Spanish Test: Mediterranean Diet Shines In Clinical Study

Pour on the olive oil in good conscience, and add some nuts while you're at it.

A careful test of the so-called Mediterranean diet involving more than 7,000 people at a high risk of having heart attacks and strokes found the diet reduced them when compared with a low-fat diet. A regular diet of Mediterranean cuisine also reduced the risk of dying.

The findings, published online by The New England Journal of Medicine, come from a study conducted right in the heart of Mediterranean country: Spain.

A group of men and women, ages 55 to 80 at the start of the study, were randomly assigned to a low-fat diet or one of two variations of the Mediterranean diet: one featuring a lot of extra-virgin olive oil (more than a quarter cup a day) and the other including lots of nuts (more than an ounce a day of walnuts, almonds and hazelnuts).

The Mediterranean diet is rich in fish, grains, nuts, fruits and vegetables. The diet is low in dairy products, red meat and processed foods.

In this study, funded mainly by the Spanish government, the researchers made sure people got regular training sessions in the particulars of each diet. They also checked people's actual consumption of olive oil and nuts with lab tests.

One thing the researchers didn't do was set any limits on calories or targets for exercise.

While lots of research has found benefits from the Mediterranean diet, many of the studies have observed what people have eaten and looked for associations. One of this study's strengths is that it randomly assigned people at high risk of developing cardiovascular disease to diets that stood to help then.

The study was stopped early (after a median follow-up of 4.8 years) because the benefits from the Mediterranean diet were already becoming apparent. Overall, the people consuming the diets rich in olive oil or nuts had about a 30 percent lower risk of having a heart attack, stroke or dying from a cardiovascular cause.

In absolute terms, there were about 8 of those problems for every 1,000 person-years in the Mediterranean diet groups compared with 11 per 1,000 person-years in the low-fat diet group.

How does the Mediterranean diet work? The prevailing theory is that it lowers bad cholesterol and triglycerides while increasing protective good cholesterol. It may also also help the body's ability to process sugar.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

WAMU 88.5

Barry Meier: "Missing Man"

Nine years ago, former FBI agent Robert Levinson disappeared in Iran while on a mission for the CIA. The story of his secret journey to Iran, the CIA cover-up that followed and efforts to rescue the longest-held U.S. hostage.

NPR

5,000-Year-Old Chinese Beer Recipe Revealed

Researchers discovered ancient "beer-making tool kits" in underground rooms built between 3400 and 2900 B.C. Analyses of funnels, pots and jugs show the brewers were using pretty advanced techniques.
WAMU 88.5

The Fight for D.C.'s Budget Freedom

Last week, a House committee with oversight of the District passed legislation that would block the ability of the Council to spend its own tax dollars.

WAMU 88.5

The U.S. Expands Ties To Vietnam

President Barack Obama lifts the embargo against U.S. arms sales to Vietnam. We discuss what closer ties between the U.S. and Vietnam mean for trade, leverage on human rights and growing concerns over China's military expansion.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.