'Mediterranean diet' can cut heart disease

Carolyn O’Neil / The Atlanta Journal-Constitution /

Published Apr 18, 2013 at 05:00AM

If you like olive oil, nuts and wine, you’re in luck. If you like eating fish and legumes at least three times a week, that’s even better. Love your veggies? You’re on your way. Nutrition researchers have been touting the possible health benefits of eating foods popular in Mediterranean cultures for decades.

Now the first major clinical trial on the Mediterranean diet shows that eating this way can prevent 30 percent of heart attacks, strokes and deaths from heart disease. The results of the University of Barcelona study, published in The New England Journal of Medicine, reveal that people at high risk for heart disease because they were overweight, smoked or had diabetes were able to cut their heart attack risk by eating a diet rich in olive oil, nuts, beans, fish, fruits and vegetables. They even got to drink wine with their meals.

The nearly 7,500 study participants were divided into two groups; consuming either the Mediterranean or a low-fat plan. The low-fat group had a hard time sticking with the diet because it wasn’t as palatable as the Mediterranean menu. The five-year study actually ended early because it was evident the low-fat group might be at higher risk for heart disease.