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Mediterranean diet shows protective powers in heart patients

By HealthDay News
MONDAY, Aug. 29, 2016 -- New research suggests that eating a Mediterranean diet may prolong the lives of heart patients.

"Adherence to the Mediterranean diet reduces the risk of overall mortality, not only in the general population -- which is already known -- but in patients who already suffered a heart attack," said study researcher Dr. Giovanni de Gaetano. He is head of the department of epidemiology and prevention at the I.R.C.C.S. Neuromed Institute in Pozzilli, Italy.

"All-cause death was significantly reduced both in the people following the medium-level [Mediterranean diet], but especially in people who followed faithfully the Mediterranean diet," de Gaetano added. "The reduction in this group was about 37 percent."

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The study included nearly 1,200 patients in Italy. During a median follow-up of just over seven years, 208 died.

Further investigation showed that the lower risk of death was mainly associated with higher consumption of certain foods in the Mediterranean diet: vegetables, fish, fruits, nuts and olive oil.

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"These results prompt us to investigate the mechanism[s] through which the Mediterranean diet may protect against death. This was an observational study, so we cannot say that the effect is causal," de Gaetano said in a European Society of Cardiology news release.

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The research was presented this weekend at the European Society of Cardiology annual meeting in Rome. Research presented at meetings is considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

But de Gaetano had some advice for doctors in the meantime.

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"Doctors should inquire about the dietary habits of people," he said during a media briefing at the meeting. "Of course, they will continue to prescribe cardiovascular drugs -- statins, aspirin, whatever they want -- but they cannot look at the drugs as the only way [to treat heart disease]. Suggestions to follow a healthy dietary habit are as important as prescribing drugs."

More information

The American Heart Association has more on the Mediterranean diet.

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