We’re inundated with new diets all the time, but how do we really know which ones work and which ones are just fads that will disappear like water on a hot sidewalk? One of the best – if not the best – ways to determine the effectiveness of a diet is a human trial. Human trials are commonly used to help ensure that new drugs are safe and effective. And although they’re rarely used to test the effectiveness of diets, when a human trial is used to test a diet, it’s time to pay attention.
The Mediterranean diet consists of olive oil, fruit, nuts, vegetables, cereal, fish, poultry and moderate amounts of wine. Researchers have found that this diet has decreased the frequency of cardiovascular incidents, such as heart attacks, strokes, and death from cardiovascular causes. The Prevencion con Dieta Mediterranea (PREDIMED) trial was a large,
multi-center study that tested the effectiveness of two Mediterranean diets (one with extra-virgin olive oil and another one with nuts) compared to a low-fat control diet, to determine which one prevented the most cardiovascular incidents.
The study participants were men aged 55 to 80 years old and women aged 60 to 80 years old, all of whom had no history of heart disease at the time of enrollment and had either type 2 diabetes or at least three of these heart disease risk factors: smoking, high-blood pressure, high low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, low high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, overweight or obese, or a family history of premature heart disease. There were a total of 7400 men and women in the trial.
People in the two Mediterranean diet groups received either one liter of extra-virgin olive oil each week or 30 grams of mixed nuts (walnuts, hazelnuts and almonds) each day. The control group was encouraged to eat a low-fat diet that consisted of bread, pasta, potatoes, fruit and vegetables, and lean fish and seafood. This group was told not to consume oils (including olive oil), baked good and sweets, nuts and fried snacks, red and processed fatty meats, fatty fish, seafood canned in oil, spread fats, and sofrito (a sauce made with tomatoes, onions and herbs that’s simmered with olive oil).
The results were impressive. Those who followed a Mediterranean diet supplemented with either extra-virgin olive oil or nuts experienced a 30% relative risk reduction in cardiovascular incidents. There was a significant reduction in stroke risk among the people who consumed the Mediterranean diets.
The researchers theorized that it’s possible that a synergistic effect occurs when people eat all or a combination of the Mediterranean diet foods, making the diet more effective when more Mediterranean foods are eaten together. The researchers found that most of the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet were due to the consumption of olive oil and nuts.
Now you know that the Mediterranean diet can increase your chances of living a longer, healthier life.
Charles Fannan is a Senior Technical Writer and Instructional Designer. He’s worked in many areas of technology, including software development, networking, finance, research, training, and food manufacturing. Charles has a BA in Technical and Professional Writing and an MA in Instructional Technologies. He also enjoys running, working out, hiking, cooking, music, traveling, and enriching social interactions.