BLOOMINGTON, Ind., June 16 (UPI) -- Even those at-risk for heart disease benefit from the low-fat Mediterranean-style diet that features fish, nuts, olive oil and produce, U.S. researchers found.
Study author Dr. Jun Dai, an assistant professor of nutrition and epidemiology at Indiana University in Bloomington, used data from the Emory Twins Heart Study and found men eating a Mediterranean-style diet had greater heart rate variability -- variation in the time interval between heartbeats during everyday life -- than those eating a Western-type diet high in fat and red meat.
Heart rate variability is a risk factor for coronary artery disease and sudden death, Dai said.
Dai and colleagues compared dietary data from a questionnaire with cardiac data results from 276 identical and fraternal male twins and scored each participant on how closely his food intake correlated with the Mediterranean diet -- the higher the score, the greater Mediterranean-style diet, which is high in fish, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, olive oil, cereals and moderate alcohol consumption.
The study, published in the Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, found measurements of heart rate variability, using a Holter Monitor, showed that the higher a person's Mediterranean diet score, the more variable the heart beat-to-beat time interval -- 10 percent to 58 percent.
The findings cannot be generalized to women or other ethnic groups because 94 percent of participants were non-Hispanic white males, Dai said.