Mediterranean Diet Protects Heart

Heart healthy benefits from mediterranean diet

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Not all diets are created equal. Ditching the white bread and instead opting for unsaturated fats common in nuts, olive oil and avocados may offer added protection for the heart.

Incorporating foods typical of a Mediterranean diet appear to improve the heart health in individuals at risk for cardiovascular disease -- even if the diet change isn't accompanied by weight loss.

"Try incorporating olive oil, nuts and avocados into your diet."

Dr. Meghana Gadgil, a postdoctoral fellow in the division of general internal medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, said that introducing the right kind of fat into a healthy diet is another way to reduce the future risk of heart disease.

Researchers analyzed data from the OmniHeart Trial, which studied the cardiovascular effects of three different balanced diets on 164 people with mild hypertension, but no diabetes. They compared the body's ability to regulate blood sugar and maintain healthy insulin levels while consuming one of three diets that were rich in carbohydrates, protein or unsaturated fats.

When a person's body is unable to effectively use insulin, they generally develop type 2 diabetes, which puts them at risk for heart disease.

Participants consumed each of the three diets for six weeks in a row, with a two to four week break in between each. Blood samples were collected during weeks four and six of each diet to monitor insulin and glucose levels. The diets were designed so that participants would not lose weight so the effect on the heart prior to weight loss could be studied.

Investigators found that diets high in unsaturated fats improved insulin use significantly better than one based in carbohydrates, especially when it came to white bread and pasta. They also noted that beneficial heart effects were apparent despite the lack of weight loss.

The research was recently presented at the American Heart Association's annual meeting in Orlando, Fla.

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Review Date: 
November 17, 2011
Last Updated:
November 18, 2011