Mediterranean diet can cut heart ailments, study finds

GINA KOLATA

About 30 per cent of heart attacks, strokes and deaths from heart disease can be prevented in people at high risk if they switch to a Mediterranean diet rich in olive oil, nuts, beans, fish, fruits and vegetables, and even drink wine with meals, a large and rigorous new study found.

The findings, published on the New England Journal of Medicine's website 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 diet helped those following it even though they did not lose weight and most of them were already taking statins, or blood pressure or diabetes drugs to lower their heart disease risk. "Really impressive," said Rachel Johnson, a professor of nutrition at the University of Vermont and a spokeswoman for the American Heart Association.

One group assigned to a Mediterranean diet was given extra virgin olive oil each week and was instructed to use at least 4 tablespoons a day. The other group got a combination of walnuts, almonds and hazelnuts. The mainstays of the diet consisted of at least 3 servings a day of fruits and at least two servings of vegetables. Participants were to eat fish at least three times a week and legumes. They were to eat white meat, and, have at least 7 glasses of wine a week with meals.

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