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Mediterranean Diets Linked to Heart-Healthy Effects

Such diets may have a greater effect than a low-fat diet on cardiovascular risk factors

THURSDAY, July 6 (HealthDay News) -- Mediterranean diets including nuts or olive oil may have more beneficial cardiovascular effects than a standard low-fat diet, according to a study published in the July issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Ramon Estruch, M.D., of the University of Barcelona in Spain, and colleagues randomly assigned 772 healthy Spanish volunteers aged 55 to 80 with high cardiovascular risk to either a standard low-fat diet, a Mediterranean diet including one liter per week of virgin olive oil or a Mediterranean diet including 30 grams per day of walnuts, hazelnuts and almonds.

After three months, the researchers found that subjects on the Mediterranean diets had lower levels of blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar than the subjects on the standard low-fat diet and were better able to maintain their diets. They also found that the Mediterranean diet with olive oil reduced C-reactive protein levels by a mean of 0.54 mg/L compared with the low-fat diet.

"Our results suggest that the healthy effects of the Mediterranean diet observed in epidemiologic studies are exerted partly through plausible mechanisms: improved lipid profiles and reductions in blood pressure, insulin resistance, and systemic markers of inflammation," the authors conclude. "An increasing body of knowledge supports the Mediterranean diet as a useful tool in managing individuals who are at high risk for coronary heart disease."

Several businesses donated olive oil and nuts for the study.

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