Mediterranean diet cuts death risk in heart patients: study

London: The Mediterranean diet, which includes vegetables, fish, fruits and nuts, may reduce the risk of death in patients with a history of cardiovascular disease, a new study has claimed.

“The Mediterranean diet is widely recognised as one of the healthier nutrition habits in the world,” said Giovanni de Gaetano from IRCCS Neuromed Institute in Italy. “In fact, many scientific studies have shown that a traditional Mediterranean lifestyle is associated with a lower risk of various chronic diseases and, more importantly, of death from any cause,” said de Gaetano.

According to him, Mediterranean diet is also optimal for people who have already suffered from cardiovascular disease. Researchers studied 1,197 patients with a history of cardiovascular disease, such as coronary artery disease and stroke. Food intake was recorded using the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer (EPIC) food frequency questionnaire.

Adherence to the Mediterranean diet was appraised with a 9-point Mediterranean diet score (MDS). During a median follow up of 7.3 years there were 208 deaths.

A 2-point increase in the MDS was associated with a 21 per cent reduced risk of death after controlling for age, sex, energy intake, egg and potato intake, education, leisure-time physical activity, waist to hip ratio, smoking, hypertension, hypercholesterolaemia, diabetes and cancer at baseline.

When considered as a 3-level categorical variable, the top category (score 6-9) of adherence to the Mediterranean diet was associated with 37 per cent lower risk of death compared to the bottom category (0-3). “We found that among those with a higher adherence to the Mediterranean diet, death from any cause was reduced by 37 per cent in comparison to those who poorly adhered to this dietary regime,” said de Gaetano.

“The major contributors to mortality risk reduction were a higher consumption of vegetables, fish, fruits, nuts and monounsaturated fatty acids – that means olive oil,” said Marialaura Bonaccio from IRCCS Neuromed Institute.