Consuming a Mediterranean-style diet, rich in fruit, vegetables and fish, may reduce the risk of dieing from cardiovascular disease (CVD) by 30 per cent, says Australia's largest study of eating habits.Source: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
The research, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, adds to an ever-growing list of research supporting the health benefits of consuming a traditional Mediterranean diet, with evidence linking the diet to lower incidence of heart disease, obesity and certain types of cancers.
"The Mediterranean diet is a rich source of antioxidants, monounsaturated fats, omega-3 fatty acids and fibre, and relatively low in saturated fats. This combination is believed to have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antithrombotic properties that may help reduce cardiovascular disease," said lead author Linton Harriss from Monash University.
The Melbourne Collaborative Cohort Study followed 40 653 volunteers (23 980 women, aged between 40 and 69 for 10.4 years. Almost one quarter (24 per cent) of the volunteers were born in the Mediterranean.
Dietary intakes of Mediterranean foods, vegetables, meat, and fresh fruit were assessed using a food-frequency questionnaire.
"The Mediterranean diet is characterised by higher intakes of plant foods and fish, moderate intake of wine and lower intake of animal products," explained Harriss.
"Foods frequently in the diet included garlic, cucumber, olive oil, salad greens, capsicum, legumes, tomato, feta and ricotta cheeses, olives, onion, watermelon, steamed fish and boiled chicken," he added.
The researchers calculated that highest adherence to the Mediterranean-style diet was associated with a 41 per cent reduction in ischaemic heart disease (IHD), characterised by a reduction in blood flow to the heart.
When vegetables and fresh fruit were considered separately, beneficial associations were observed mortality from cardiovascular disease (CVD), with risk reductions of 34 and 31 per cent, respectively, for the highest versus lowest average intakes.
"Our findings suggest that frequent consumption of traditional Mediterranean foods is associated with reduced cardiovascular mortality after controlling for important risk factors and country of birth," concluded the researchers.
The components of the diet that are reported to offer health benefits include antioxidants that help reduce oxidative damage, monounsaturated fats that help to lower cholesterol, omega-3s, believed to stabilise the heart rhythm, and fibre that may assist in lowering cholesterol, blood pressure and other cardiovascular risk factors.
Co-authors of the study include researchers from The Cancer Council Victoria, The University of Melbourne, University of Cambridge and St Vincent's Hospital Melbourne.
July 2007, Volume 86, Number 1, Pages 221-229