The Mediterranean Diet’s Effect on Heart Disease - dummies

The Mediterranean Diet’s Effect on Heart Disease

By Meri Raffetto, Wendy Jo Peterson

The Mediterranean diet is most noticed in the scientific community for its effect on heart health. Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States, even though a few lifestyle changes make it easily preventable. Genetics still play a strong role, of course, but making small changes to your diet and exercising make a big difference.

The first research focused on the Mediterranean diet started with a scientist named Ancel Keys and the Seven Countries Study. This study found that southern Europe had far fewer coronary deaths than northern Europe and the United States did, even when factoring in age, smoking, blood pressure, and physical activity.

These results made researchers look more closely at the differences in dietary habits. This study is still important today because more people in the Mediterranean regions studied no longer eat in their traditional way, and those regions show higher occurrences of heart disease.

Recent research continues to show a correlation between a traditional Mediterranean diet and lower incidence of heart disease. According to a 2008 study published in the British Medical Journal, research showed a 9-percent decrease in deaths from coronary artery disease.

A 2011 review of several studies covering 535,000 people that was published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology reported that a traditional Mediterranean diet is associated with lower blood pressure, blood sugar, and triglyceride levels.

Many more studies have shown the heart health protection of a diet high in fruits, vegetables, legumes, wine, and seafood, which supports the idea that the Mediterranean diet is a healthy lifestyle.