According to a new study published in the journal BMC Medicine, the Mediterranean diet could prevent 20,000 deaths resulting from heart attack and stroke in the UK population.
Mediterranean diet is rich in fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, herbs, nuts, olive oil, some fish, dairy and moderate amounts of red wine. The cardiovascular health benefits of this diet are well-established, especially in the Mediterranean countries, but this is the first study to explore its influence on Britons.
The Cambridge University researchers gathered data of about 24,000 people from Norfolk, UK for a period that spanned over 20 years. The team tracked the effect of the diet on the group’s heart health.
The researchers found that 12.5% of the deaths caused by cardiovascular issues could be avoided by following the Mediterranean diet. With heart attack and stroke responsible for around 160,000 death in the UK every year, eating healthy foods could be helpful in preventing some 20,000 deaths, the study suggests.
Dr Nita Forouhi, the lead study author from the University of Cambridge, stressed that following the Mediterranean style of eating is one integral part of the overall approach. Not smoking and being able to keep your weight, cholesterol levels and blood pressure within a healthy range are other important factors that help reduce the risk factors for cardiovascular disease.
According to Dr. Forouhi, this work highlights the importance of a well-balanced diet, which means including something from a wide range of healthy foods available to us; and not just superfoods often propagated for their all-inclusive health benefits. Restricting the intake of sugar, salt and fats also keep your heart fit and healthy.
The UK National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) already recommends a Mediterranean way of eating for people who have had cardiovascular events the past. This study shows that this diet may be beneficial for all, in terms of lowering their risk factors for heart attack and stroke.
- National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. Myocardial infarction: cardiac rehabilitation and prevention of further MI. 1.2 Lifestyle changes after an MI. NICE Guidelines. [CG172]. NICE; 2013.. Accessed 1 Sept 2016.
- Tammy Y. N. Tong, Nicholas J. Wareham, Kay-Tee Khaw, Fumiaki Imamura and Nita G. Forouhi. Prospective association of the Mediterranean diet with cardiovascular disease incidence and mortality and its population impact in a non-Mediterranean population: the EPIC-Norfolk study. BMC Medicine. 201614:135. DOI: 10.1186/s12916-016-0677-4