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There are many diets-du-jour to choose from. And most likely you’ve heard and read about most of them. But when it comes to promises of better health and a sleek physique — few can stand up to the Mediterranean diet.
In fact, the benefits you gain from the foods of the Mediterranean diet are so strong, the most recent study shows the diet can decrease your risk of stroke, heart attack or death more than if you gave up all of the the bad foods, like grains, deep-fried foods and sugary sweet desserts and drinks, typical of the Western diet followed by most Americans.
In other words, it looks like you have proof that you can mostly follow the healthy Mediterranean diet, eat more fresh fruits and vegetables, fish and olive oil — and cheat with some of those “guilty-pleasure foods” — yet still hold onto your health.
So why is your doctor forcing you to eat only the “healthy foods?” Likely because he’s hung up on outdated advice. Because you’ll soon see that you can have your cake — or fried pie — and eat it too without going into cardiac arrest…
The study, which is published in the European Heart Journal, 1 showed that for every 100 people eating the highest proportion of healthy “Mediterranean” foods, there were three fewer heart attacks, strokes or deaths than compared to 100 people eating the least amount of healthy foods during nearly four years of follow-up from the time the participants joined the study.
The people who participated in the study — all 15,482 of them — had been previously diagnosed with coronary artery disease. After participating in a food survey, they were given a Mediterranean diet score (MDS) which assigned points — from 0 to 24 —based on their consumption of healthy foods. The amount of unhealthy foods they ate was assigned a Western diet score (WDS).
The participants fell into the three major MDS score ranges: 15 or over (those who ate the most amounts of healthy foods); 13-14 (somewhere in the middle); and 12 or lower (ate the least healthy).
Almost four years later, researchers followed up. They saw that 10.1 percent (1,588) of the folks in the study had experienced a major adverse cardiovascular event (MACE) — either a heart attack, stroke or death.
What did their scores mean in all of this?
Not surprisingly, the lowest percentage of people experiencing a MACE event — 7.3 percent — fell within the group with the highest MDS score range of 15. Among those who had scored MDS of 13-14 — 10.5 percent had a MACE, while 10.8 percent of those with an MDS score of 12 or lower did.
Professor Ralph Stewart, from Auckland City Hospital, University of Auckland, New Zealand, who led the study, said: “After adjusting for other factors that might affect the results, we found that every one unit increase in the Mediterranean diet score was associated with a seven percent reduction in the risk of heart attacks, strokes or death from cardiovascular or other causes in patients with existing heart disease.”
But this part Dr. Stewart adds is where it gets real interesting…
“In contrast, greater consumption of foods thought be less healthy and more typical of Western diets, was not associated with an increase in these adverse events, which we had not expected.”
So the obvious health-boosting effects of the Mediterranean diet seemed to rise to the top regardless of whether the folks in the study also ate foods from the not-so-healthy Western diet.
Is this proof-positive perhaps that strict adherence to extreme dieting is not necessary to experience better health and reduce your risks of disease and death?
Though this study didn’t delve deeply into details like caloric intake and fats, that’s exactly what is seems to say…
According to Dr. Stewart, “The main message is that some foods — and particularly fruit and vegetables — seem to lower the risk of heart attacks and strokes, and this benefit is not explained by traditional risk factors such as good and bad cholesterol or blood pressure. If you eat more of these foods in preference to others, you may lower your risk. The study found no evidence of harm from modest consumption of foods such as refined carbohydrates, deep fried foods, sugars and deserts. […]”
Those traditional risk factors Dr. Stewart mentions — like cholesterol — are often used as scapegoats and are only one small part of a much bigger picture. It’s becoming more obvious, especially with studies like this, that the conventional medical dietary advice that’s been spouted for years is in much need of an update.