Can a Mediterranean Diet Reduce Heart Disease Risk?

The Mediterranean diet is renowned as a healthful way of eating, incorporating fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

antipasti4.jpgMany people choose to start the New Year with a new diet, and while the focus is often on losing weight, a healthy way of eating also brings positive health changes, such as a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

One of the most well researched diets is the Mediterranean diet, which is typically associated with Italy, Greece and Spain. This diet is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and olive oil, making it a wonderful diet for weight loss. However, a Mediterranean diet has also been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering “bad” LDL cholesterol, as well as cancer risk and the onset of cognitive disorders, such as Alzheimer’s Disease.


Heart Disease

Coronary heart disease is a type of cardiovascular disease and is usually caused by the build-up of fat on the inside of the arteries. Due to the presence of these fatty deposits, the flow of blood to the heart is restricted, resulting in angina (chest pain), a heart attack (when flow is suddenly stopped) or heart failure (when the heart stops pumping blood properly).

With such serious consequences, reducing the risk of heart disease is of great benefit. The good news is that you can reduce the risk simply by living a healthy lifestyle.


The Mediterranean Diet and Heart Disease

citrus1.jpgA 2014 study published in Public Health Nutrition reported that those even loosely following a Mediterranean diet had a 10% reduced risk of developing cardiovascular disease. However, the health benefits of the diet were even more pronounced when followed closely, with a 56% reduction in heart disease, as found by Italian researchers.

Although exactly how a Mediterranean diet reduces heart disease risk is not fully understood, this way of eating is considered to have a beneficial effect on inflammation, the vascular endothelium and insulin resistance, resulting in health benefits. In a 2014 review assessing the benefits of the Mediterranean diet as part of the PREDIMED study (a special study designed to assess the long-term effects of the Mediterranean diet), Spanish researchers identified that the high unsaturated fat intake and antioxidant-rich nature of the Mediterranean diet may be the reasoning behind its healthy reputation.

In particular, virgin olive oil and nut consumption have been identified as key players in the health benefits of a Mediterranean diet. Their anti-inflammatory effects may reduce the build-up of fat deposits on the arterial walls, thus reducing heart disease risk. The antioxidants found in the fruits and vegetables that are a focus of the Mediterranean diet likely also have an anti-inflammatory effect.


How to Start a Mediterranean Diet

If you are hoping to implement a healthy lifestyle in 2018, then we think you’ll love the flexibility and delicious foods that you can enjoy as part of a Mediterranean diet. To find out more about this diet and the foods it includes, click here to read our recent health blog.

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