The Mediterranean diet pattern is one that emphasizes fruits, vegetables, olive oil, and other plant-based foods as its basis, and uses primarily fish and seafood as main animal protein sources. It also downplays the consumption of poultry, eggs, cheese and yogurt and minimizes consumption of meats and sweets. Such a pattern is similar to the historical Greek diet. Now a new preliminary report, described in the Los Angeles Times, suggests that adhering to such a diet pattern might lower the risk of heart disease.
In 2001-2002, researchers from Harokopio University in Athens, Greece, enrolled nearly 2600 Greek men and women who were between the ages of 18 and 89 years in a study of the relationship between diet and heart disease. At the start of the study and after ten years, the participants reported detailed accounts of their consumption of 18 different food groups. Each was then assigned a rating that reflected their adherence to the Mediterranean diet pattern.
Twenty percent of the men and 12 percent of the women died of heart disease during the ten-year follow up period. The investigators found that participants in the top one third of adherents to the Mediterranean diet pattern were 47 percent less likely than those in the lowest third to develop cardiovascular disease.
ACSH s Dr. Ruth Kava commented These results, while very preliminary, are intriguing. However, we must wait until the study itself has been published to learn more about the participants and details of the results. While the Mediterranean diet pattern is certainly a healthy one, it s important to remember that calories still count, as does physical activity when protecting health. She goes on: It is also important to consider the inherent problems associated with using self-report data to assess diet, especially given that the participants were only assessed twice over the ten year study period.