An Italian study has revealed Mediterranean diet can cut risk of premature death from heart disease by 37 percent. This makes the healthy-fat-rich diet more effective even than the popular cholesterol-lowering drugs called statins.
The observational study involved 1,200 heart disease patients of whom those who followed the diet were less likely to die early. The findings were unveiled at the European Society of Cardiology conference a few days ago.
Lead author Prof. Giovanni de Gaetano currently advises doctors to better try and tweak patients’ diets first than resorting to drugs. Dr. Gaetano is also senior epidemiologist at the IRCCS Neuromed Institute in Italy.
He explained that so far the Mediterranean diet ranks among the healthiest diets in the world. Study authors cited previous studies that had shown a link between the diet and reduced risk of chronic diseases. Additionally, previous research has underlined a link between the Mediterranean lifestyle and smaller odds of dying prematurely.
But past studies have very rarely focused on heart disease patients. Most of those studies involved healthy populations. So, Dr. de Gaetano’s team planned to learn whether the diet benefits patients living with a heart condition too.
Previous studies had also shown that statins can lower risk of death from heart disease. Still, in statins’ case, that risk sank only by 24 percent, making the Mediterranean diet a much better option.
Currently, experts recommend a combined course of action. For maximum benefits, heart disease patients should keep taking statins but follow the Mediterranean diet too.
The Mediterranean diet heavily relies on whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and legumes. Fish and poultry are also a healthy addition.
Extra-virgin olive oil usually replaces unhealthy fats such as butter or refined vegetable oils. But experts do not recommend extra-virgin olive oil for cooking or frying as heating triggers chemical reactions that can turn the otherwise healthy oil into a cancer-causing agent.
Instead, for frying or cooking you can use lower-quality olive oil, i.e. the brands that don’t bear the “extra-virgin” label.
Although the Mediterranean diet is rich in fresh fruits and vegetables, carnivores can keep their poultry and other lean meats. Nevertheless, red meat is out of question, and so are sugar and processed foods.
Sugar and Processed Foods a Definite No-No
Why are sugar and processed foods off the menu? Several studies have shown that sugar may boost the risk of type 2 diabetes on the long run, promote body inflammation, and up risk of some cancers. You can replace sugar with honey and other natural alternatives.
Furthermore, processed foods are rich in unhealthy fats, also known as trans fats or trans-fatty acids. A plethora of studies have linked the man-made trans fats to higher levels of bad cholesterol, heightened risk of heart disease, memory issues, and premature death.
According to recent research, trans fats up the risk of early death from all causes by 34 percent, risk of early death from heart disease by 28 percent, and risk of developing a heart condition by 21 percent.
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