WASHINGTON, D.C. (WUSA9)--The heart healthy diet that can extend your lifespan? The Mediterranean diet, according to a new study published today in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Researchers who ran the clinical tests in Spain evaluated the study that includes a high intake of olive oil, fruit, nuts, vegetables and cereals as well as a moderate intake of fish, poultry and wine.
7,400 men and women ages 50 to 80 took part in the study. Participants had no prior cardiovascular disease but did have other risk factors that contribute to cardio issues, such as smoking and type 2 diabetes.
Since researchers needed to identify which foods within the diet had the strongest effects, they randomly assigned their participants to one of three dietary intervention groups: a control diet, a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil and a Mediterranean diet supplemented with nuts.
Dietitians ran training sessions and met with participants quarterly to ensure that they were keeping to the restrictions. Dietary technology was also used to oversee specific eating habits.
Results compared between the three groups within the six-year follow up period shows an energy-unrestricted Mediterranean diet supplemented with either extra-virgin olive oil or nuts can lead to a 30% risk reduction for major cardiovascular diseases. Stroke also decreased in the two Mediterranean diet groups.
While researchers acknowledge that the participants lived in Mediterranean countries, this study provides information that could help Westerners improve their own health. For those cannot stick to the full Mediterranean diet, consuming extra-virgin olive oil and nuts will also give cardiovascular benefits.
A secondary prevention trial, the Lyon Diet Heart Study also found similar results.