Previous research suggests that one of the best things you can do for your business is eat plenty of plants, fish, nuts, and seeds, and not lots of red meat or processed foods. Currently December 2018 study in JAMA Network is open It highlights why this style of eating, called the Mediterranean diet, is good for the heart.
We did not know the potential mechanisms of how the Mediterranean diet might reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. “It was like a black box,” says the study’s lead author, Shafqat Ahmed, PhD, and a research fellow at the institute. Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, both in Boston. “Through this study, we know that following a Mediterranean diet reduces or improves many risk factors for cardiovascular disease, which are very important in terms of prevention.”
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In a large, long-term study, more than 25,000 women answered food intake questionnaires and provided blood samples. Researchers from Dr. Ahmed’s Institutions and Harvard Medical School followed them for up to 12 years.
The authors found a link between people who followed the Mediterranean diet and a 25 percent lower risk of heart disease, compared to those who followed the diet less closely. To take a look at the mechanisms behind this reduced risk, the researchers used blood samples to measure previously established, novel biomarkers of heart disease and found changes in inflammation, glucose metabolism, and insulin resistance.
“The results show that the Mediterranean diet improves inflammation, which is a very significant risk factor for cardiovascular disease,” says Ahmed. “We now also know that the main pathway through which the Mediterranean diet improves cardiovascular risk is through improved glucose metabolism, insulin resistance, and body fat. [fat]. “
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How researchers studied the heart benefits of the Mediterranean diet
The researchers put the participants into three categories according to their Mediterranean diet: low, medium, and upper. During the study period, they noted that 428 women in the low group, 356 women in the middle group, and 246 women in the higher group had the highest risk of heart disease. With this in mind, they determined that women in the middle and upper group, respectively, had 23 and 28 percent lower risks of developing cardiovascular disease than the lowest group.
This low risk rate of 25 percent is similar to the protective effects of medications.
“Statins and aspirin are routinely used to prevent cardiovascular disease,” Ahmed says. “Through diet, you can reduce risk as much as through medication.”
The study data came from the Women’s Health Study, which includes only female health workers and may limit the impact of the findings, as these individuals may be more health conscious than the general population. But Ahmed says he believes the results can be generalized and applied to men as well, as previous, smaller studies have reported that the effects of a Mediterranean diet are similar for men and women.
“It’s very clear, for the first time in a large-scale epidemiological study, that we’ve shown that the Mediterranean diet improves cardiovascular risk by 25 percent, but it also improves basic biomarkers, which is really cool,” Ahmed says.
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The numbers behind why the Mediterranean diet is heart-healthy
The results of the new study are consistent with the findings of previous research, including in April 2013 New England Journal of Medicine study (It was later pulled and republished, but it still matters, experts say) and March 2015 review in American Journal of Medicine which promotes the cardiovascular benefits of a Mediterranean-style diet, while also showing how this might happen.
The researchers compared the blood biomarkers of the middle and higher groups with those of the lower group of Mediterranean dietary intake and measured changes that indicated a lower risk of cardiovascular disease. The largest biomarker changes were inflammation (29% reduced risk), glucose metabolism and insulin resistance (27.9% reduced risk), and body mass index (27.3% reduced risk).
Martha McKittrick, RDN, CDE, a registered dietitian in a private practice in New York City, says the study results weren’t surprising, but they may be useful in helping motivate people to adopt this way of eating.
“We hear the phrase ‘It’s good for you, do this,'” says McKittrick, “but this study shows how you actually know why.” “It’s important for people to know that there are real medical reasons why this diet might help reduce heart disease risk.”
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How to get started on a Mediterranean diet to help boost your health
According to the American Heart Association, heart disease is the number one cause of death for both men and women. But McKittrick notes that her clients tend to focus their diet on other health problems.
“What I see with a lot of my patients, whether they want to lower cholesterol or lose weight, they come in and cut back — they eat fewer carbs and calories — and they don’t look at the quality,” she says. McKittrick adds that this is especially true among women looking to lose weight. “Women in their quest to lose weight may skip whole grains, avoid nuts and use less olive oil because they are ‘fat’, and don’t think about the big picture and the quality of what they eat.”
The Mediterranean diet is rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, healthy fats (olive oil, avocado) and fish, which experts recommend eating one to two times per week. This eating pattern allows for limited red meat, sweets, sugary foods, refined carbohydrates, and dairy products. moderate amounts of wine are allowed; For women, 1 cup (5 ounces) or less per day; For men, no more than two glasses a day.
“The Mediterranean diet is sustainable because it includes all food groups; whole, plant-based, healthy foods; and there are no real restrictions,” says McKitrick. “Following this pattern of diet means that you are not just looking at weight and macronutrients; it is all the other little things.”