Early results from a Spanish cohort study featuring 7500 people with heart disease risk have found Mediterranean diets high in virgin olive oil (VOO) and nuts are more effective in reducing heart disease event likelihood than drug treatments.
The team of Spanish researchers published initial findings in the trial that is due to complete next year in Atherosclerosis, reporting significant improvements in groups eating traditional Mediterranean diets plus VOO or nuts, compared to those on a low-fat diet.
Among the over-55s artery thickness was lower in the VOO and nut groups but only among those who already had somewhat thickened arteries.
One of the researchers, Dr Miguel Angel Martínez-González, from the Department of Preventative Medicine at the University of Navarra, said the findings emphasised the value of dietary versus pharma interventions in controlling cardiovascular event likelihood.
They showed that, “a modification in the entire diet pattern managed to achieve, in just one year, results that pharmaceutical drugs did not – even after two years of treatment.”
However, “This improvement was not observed amongst those who did not have thickening of the artery wall at the start of the study.”
The study places each volunteer in one of three groups following a Mediterranean diet with the VOO group receiving 15 litres of virgin olive oil per three months, a nut group given 30g a day of walnuts, almonds and hazelnuts, and a third group given instructions and material to follow a low-fat diet.
“We thus observed who had suffered the greatest thickening of this layer — due to arteriosclerosis — a significant improvement and regression of lesions having taken place in those cases that had followed a Mediterranean diet enriched with virgin olive oil or nuts,” said Dr Ana Sánchez-Tainta, also from the University of Navarra.
The results showed the nut and VOO groups after three months had improved adolipoprotein ratios that delivered lower heart disease risk for both men and women.
For men, the number at high-risk dropped 5%, while 16.6% of women fell from high-medium status to low cardiometabolic risk.
“Data from this study provide further evidence to recommend a TMD rich in virgin olive oil as a useful tool for controlling CHD risk, particularly in individuals at high risk for developing CHD,” they concluded.
The project is co-joined by the Department of Neurology at University Hospital of Navarra, the Primary Health Care services of Osasunbidea (the Navarre Public Health Service), the Hospital Clinic of Barcelona and the Institute of Fat of Seville.
Volume 218, Issue 1 , September 2011, Pages 174-180
‘Effect of a traditional Mediterranean diet on apolipoproteins B, A-I, and their ratio: A randomized, controlled trial’
Authors: Miguel Angel Martínez-González et al.