Heart disease is one of the leading causes of death in the United States today. What can you do to keep your heart healthy?
Reuters reports on heart health.
A new study from Spain shows that a Mediterranean diet enhanced with extra nuts or more olive oil improved certain heart risk factors among people who had them. However, the study did not show that it would definitely prevent others from developing certain risks.
How long was the trial?
Researchers led the trial for five years. In the end, fewer people eating the Mediterranean diet had so-called metabolic syndrome, a collection of traits that raise a person’s risk of heart disease and diabetes, mostly because the syndrome disappeared from some who had it at the beginning.
Dr. Salvado, who led the study, told Reuters, “A healthy diet, like the Mediterranean diet, with a moderate-high intake of vegetable fat (in form of virgin olive oil or nuts) is a good healthy option for the prevention of several cardiovascular risk factors and chronic disease.”
What is metabolic syndrome?
It is a group of risk factors, including a large waistline, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, low levels of HDL (good) cholesterol and high levels of triglycerides. Many who have three or more of these symptoms are at increased risk of producing cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
Statistics offer great insight into how important it is to fight heart disease and diabetes.
“About 25 percent of adults around the world, and one-third of American adults, have metabolic syndrome, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But in the study, even though no one was dieting to lose weight, consuming extra olive oil was linked to loss of the abdominal fat that had helped to qualify some participants for metabolic syndrome to begin with. It was also linked to lowered blood sugar,” according to Reuters.
Research from past years has shown that eating a healthy diet, increasing physical activity and losing weight can help reverse the effects of metabolic syndrome, but the researchers of the new study wanted to see if just following a Mediterranean-style diet without cutting calories may be beneficial.
The authors scrutinized data from a larger trial, in which adults age fifty-five and older with an increased risk of heart disease were randomly assigned to one of three diets: a Mediterranean diet supplemented with additional extra-virgin olive oil, a Mediterranean diet coupled with nuts, or a low-fat diet.
Why is the Mediterranean diet so inherently beneficial?
Reuters explains, “A Mediterranean eating style already emphasizes healthy fats like those found in olive oil and nuts, as well as vegetables, legumes and lean protein, especially fish. For the new analysis, the researchers followed 5,801 participants, almost two-thirds of whom (3,707) had metabolic syndrome at the start of the study. Another 2,094 participants developed metabolic syndrome during the study.”
What were the results?
After a period of five years they found that participants in the two Mediterranean-diet groups were more likely to have lost some belly fat and to have decreased blood sugar levels. As a consequence, just under thirty percent of those on one of the Mediterranean diets who began the trial with metabolic syndrome no longer met the criteria.
Dr. Salvado said, “The higher reversion rate of metabolic syndrome was mainly observed in those individuals allocated to the Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil. We can speculate that a Mediterranean diet, particularly one supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil (which has anti-inflammatory properties), could exert positive effects on fat redistribution.”
The study’s authors included a note stating that previous research has credited olive oil with decreasing high blood sugar and reducing insulin resistance, a hardship processing blood sugar that often comes before diabetes.