Adherence to Mediterranean diet may help prevent major cardiovascular events

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623545_52687286Lifestyle changes, including dietary changes, are important for prevention of cardiovascular events (CVD) such as heart attacks (MIs) and strokes. Research in this area is sometimes difficult due to the necessity of assessing participants diets: often this is done by detailed dietary histories or food frequency questionnaires. New research published in JAMA Internal Medicine suggests that there is an easier way to obtain that information.

Dr. Helmut Schroeder of Hospital del Mar Medical Research Institute, Barcelona, Spain and colleagues from several other Spanish institutions used a 14-point questionnaire to assess patients adherence to a Mediterranean diet. This research was a primary prevention trial the PREDIMED study a 5-year randomized trial.

Participants were randomly assigned to either a Mediterranean diet pattern (high in olive oil, fish, vegetables and fruit and low in dairy and red meat) or to a control diet (advice on a low-fat diet). The participants included approximately 7500 men and women who were 67 years old, on average. They either had diabetes or 3 or more cardiovascular risk factors. At quarterly visits, participants answered the 14-point questionnaire. The researchers then evaluated the association between adherence to the prescribed diet and the risk of cardiovascular events in these high-risk persons.

Statistical evaluation of the results indicated that every 2-point increase in the questionnaire score (meaning better adherence to the Mediterranean diet) was associated with a 25 percent reduction in cardiovascular events.

The researchers noted that when assessed individually, most dietary components (with the exception of vegetable intake) were not associated with a decreased risk. They said: It is not surprising that the overall score showed an inverse association with CVD and that most individual score components did not show an inverse association. The combination of foods in an overall healthy dietary pattern is likely to provide stronger protection because this approach captures potential interactions and synergies between different foods and nutrients, reflecting the effect of the whole diet. They also noted that the 14-point questionnaire was a useful, simple tool to identify and educate individuals who could benefit from dietary intervention.

ACSH s Dr. Ruth Kava commented These are valuable results anything that simplifies dietary studies is a welcome advance for nutrition research. It will be important to assess the extent to which these results can be applied to people who are not at high risk of CVD, as were the participants in this study.