Anecdotally in the past, it has been noted that people who live in the Mediterranean region seemed to have less heart disease. Aside from the beauty and sunshine, which melts the stress of all vacationers there, it was presumed their diet might have something to do with it.
Now the first relatively large study was recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine to examine this belief. They looked at over 7400 patients who were overweight, smokers and diabetics and compared a regular low fat diet to the Mediterranean diet. They found that even people with high risk of developing heart disease could cut their rate of heart attacks and strokes by 30% when they followed to the Mediterranean diet. In fact the significant benefits of this diet so surprised the researcher that they ended the study in 5 years because it was unethical to continue with the control group who were not on the diet!
The diet consists of foods, which are fresh, unprocessed and unrefined. It is also low in saturated and trans fats but contains the healthy monounsaturated fats in olive oil or omega 3 fats in fish. It also includes an abundance of vegetables, legumes, dried beans, whole grains, fruits, nuts and seeds. Fish should be consumed several times a week with occasional poultry. Red meats are consumed very little less than a few times a month. Fresh herbs should be used to replace salt. And if you like you can even indulge in a glass of red wine in moderation with your meals.
Not all experts were convinced. They argued that lowering the heart attack rate is not enough you need to prevent them all! These hard-core low fat advocates believe that a true low fat strictly vegan diet without any animal protein can reverse heart disease completely.
While these types of true vegan diets without any dairy and animal protein whatsoever undoubtedly to prevent heart disease they can be hard to maintain. Patients in the study reported this Mediterranean diet was easier to follow and more enjoyable! To really make a difference in your life whether it is to prevent heart disease or to lose weight you have to stick with it and make a permanent lifestyle changes. But this study really showed us just as the saying goes the proof is in the pudding…just make sure it’s low fat low sugar pudding!