Donya Currie is the editor of The Free Lance-Star's Healthy Living section and Healthy Life Virginia newsletter.
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Mediterranean diet gets a boost from new study
For years, dietitian Jennifer Motl has been highlighting the benefits of the Mediterranean diet in her Healthy Living column. Motl and other health professionals have touted the eating style’s emphasis on fruits, vegetables, fish, nuts, beans and olive oil.
Now, a big study is bolstering the belief that the Mediterranean diet can prevent heart attacks and strokes. Study participants who followed a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra olive oil or extra nuts were 30 percent less likely to suffer a “major cardiovascular event” than participants who followed a basic low-fat diet.
The study involved about 7,500 people in Spain who were followed for nearly five years.
As The New York Times reported, “The findings, published on the New England Journal of Medicine’s Web site on Monday, were based on the first major clinical trial to measure the diet’s effect on heart risks. The magnitude of the diet’s benefits startled experts. The study ended early, after almost five years, because the results were so clear it was considered unethical to continue.”
Earlier research had suggested the diet was beneficial, but this study provides the strongest evidence yet of the eating style’s protective benefits.
Motl said she was delighted by the study results.
“It’s exciting to get even more definitive proof that the Mediterranean eating style can save lives and can cut the risk of heart disease as much as statin drugs,” Motl wrote in an email. “I’ve been encouraging this eating pattern for years.”
She added: ”One of the best things about the Mediterranean eating plan is that it’s not a high-minded diet, it’s a way of eating that’s traditional because it tastes fantastic.”
I’ll share more thoughts from Motl, including lots more details about the diet and what study participants ate, in a story in the next few days. For now, you can read the New England Journal of Medicine study article here. And you can read the transcript of a nutrition webchat with Motl and Dr. Christopher Lillis here. You’ll notice that Motl and Lillis recommend the Mediterranean diet to readers over and over again in the chat.