GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – In a rare move, a medical study of a Mediterranean diet’s impact on cardiovascular problems proved so conclusive the study was abandoned early, after nearly five years. The study, published 25 February in the New England Journal of Medicine, included 7,447 persons considered at risk, and it put them on three diets.
A Mediterrean diet’s “salient components … reportedly associated with better survival include moderate consumption of ethanol (mostly from wine), low consumption of meat and meat products, and high consumption of vegetables, fruits, nuts, legumes, fish, and olive oil”, the authors write.
The study provides the strongest support yet from researchers on the potential for the diet from the region to help prevent heart attacks and strokes. Wine producers, who have long argued that small quantities of wine can be beneficial, will be pleased to see support for their arguments, an antidote to growing pressure in some countries to limit advertising because of alcohol abuse.
The authors conclude that “In this trial, an energy-unrestricted Mediterranean diet supplemented with either extra-virgin olive oil or nuts resulted in an absolute risk reduction of approximately 3 major cardiovascular events per 1000 person-years, for a relative risk reduction of approximately 30%, among high-risk persons who were initially free of cardiovascular disease. These results support the benefits of the Mediterranean diet for cardiovascular risk reduction. They are particularly relevant given the challenges of achieving and maintaining weight loss.”
The work was carried out at several research centres in Spain and has a long list of authors.