Mediterranean diet reverses plaque buildup and helps prevent heart attacks and strokes.

The most heart healthy diet

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The most heart healthy diet

A study released this week (Sala-Vita A. Effect of a Mediaterranean diet intervention on 3T MRI-monitored carotid plaque progression and vulnerability: A substudy of the PREDIMED trial. EAS 2014; June 2, 2014; Madrid, Spain.) reported that individuals following a Mediterranean diet experienced a reduction in carotid artery plaque compared to a control group on a low-fat diet. MRIs were used to measure arterial wall size. (The carotid arteries supply blood to the brain. Blockage of the carotid artery will cause a stroke.)

The data released this week came from a larger study called PREDIMED. 7,447 men and women between the ages of 55 and 80 who were believed to be at high risk for heart attack or stroke were involved. They were divided into three groups. One was advised to eat a Mediterranean diet supplemented by extra-virgin olive oil, a second to follow a Mediterranean diet supplemented by mixed nuts, and the third was asked to consume a diet low in saturated fat. The study was stopped when an
analysis at 4.8 years revealed that the people assigned the Mediterranean diets were clearly faring better than those on the low-fat diet. In the olive-oil and mixed-nut Mediterranean diet groups, the primary end point of heart attack, stroke, or cardiovascular death was reduced by 30% and 28% respectively, as compared with the control group.

Evidence that arterial plaque build-up can be reversed by eating a healthy diet should reassure people who are concerned that rejecting the use of cholesterol-lowering drugs will place them at greater risk for dying of a heart attack or stroke. If you’ve not read my articles on the dangers of cholesterol-lowering they are available at Cholesterol, Low (Part 1) and Cholesterol, Low (Part 2).