Italian researchers have studied 90 people with metabolic syndrome (a cluster of heart disease risk factors linked to high blood sugar) who switched to a Mediterranean diet. They found that only 30 still had the syndrome after 2 years. In a new Harvard study of 733 women, it was found that atherosclerosis-causing blood chemicals were lowest in those on a Mediterranean diet, and highest in those on a Western diet.
High-antioxidant fruits and vegetables and omega-3-rich fish are heart-protective, while trans fats found in Western-style fast food cause an inflammatory response which causes the fat in blood to pile up in arteries faster. It was also discovered that olive oil lowered blood pressure in a study of 20,000 people by Harvard and University of Athens researchers.
Those with healthy blood pressure averaged 3 ounces of olive oil a day. The experts say you can start lowering your blood pressure with just one ounce of olive oil per day. The Mediterranean Diet has also been shown to prevent various cancers. One cancer expert believes that shifting to a Mediterranean Diet could cut colon cancers by 25%, breast cancers by 15% and prostate, pancreatic and uterine cancers by 10% in the United States and other highly developed Western countries.
Other benefits of switching to a Mediterranean Diet include: lowered blood cholesterol and blood pressure levels as well as homocysteine levels, all risk factors related to cardiovascular disease; preventing age related memory loss and dementia including Alzheimer's disease. The Mediterranean Diet has also been shown to increase longevity. In one 10 year study of those over age 70, eating a Mediterranean diet cut the odds of death from all causes by 23%.
The Journal of the American Medical Association, mortality rates were 65% lower among elderly people who combined a so-called Mediterranean diet with 30 minutes of daily exercise, moderate drinking and no tobacco use. Although is no single Mediterranean Diet, doctors say cuisines from the nations in this region of the world typically favor using olive oil over butter and incorporate lots of legumes, nuts, seeds, grains, fish, vegetables and potatoes but little meat and dairy.
The JAMA study was conducted from 1988 to 2000 and led by researchers at Wageningen University in the Netherlands and other European universities. More than 2,300 healthy people ages 70 to 90 answered questions about their eating habits and activities. In a separate study in the same journal, researchers from the Second University of Naples in Italy found that the Mediterranean Diet helped patients with "metabolic syndrome," which increases the risk of heart disease and diabetes and affects 1 out of 4 American adults.
People with the syndrome are fat around the middle, have high blood pressure and cholesterol deposits in their arteries, and do not properly process glucose. After two years, 44% of those on the Mediterranean diet still had features of metabolic syndrome, compared with 86% of the others studied.
This research confirms the results of earlier studies, experts say. A previous study of heart-attack survivors showed that the mortality rate was 70% lower among those who followed a prescribed Mediterranean diet compared with people on a low-fat diet. "The Mediterranean experience makes it clear that healthy eating is completely consistent with wonderful eating," says Walter Willett, chairman of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health.
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