Some of the benefits of a Mediterranean-type
diet -- rich in vegetables, fruits, legumes and olive oil and
light on red meat -- may stem from the diet's effect on inflammation,
new research suggests.
In a study from Greece, markers
of inflammation and blood clotting that are related to heart disease
were lowest in people who adhered most closely to the traditional
It is too soon to say whether the
Mediterranean diet was responsible for the low levels of inflammation
and blood-clotting markers, but the findings do provide a plausible
explanation of the diet's benefits, according to the study's lead
"There is growing scientific evidence
that diets high in fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains
and that include fish, nuts and low-fat dairy products offer protective
health benefits," Dr. Demosthenes B. Panagiotakos of Harokopio
University in Athens stated.
He noted that in the past few decades,
a large body of evidence has linked the Mediterranean diet to
reductions in heart disease, overall deaths and some kinds of
The latest results suggest that
the Mediterranean diet protects the heart by reducing inflammation,
"Our findings render this dietary
pattern extremely attractive for public health purposes and should
be adopted by almost everyone," he said.
The results of the study appear
in Wednesday's issue of the Journal of the American College of
A Mediterranean-style diet is rich
in fruits, vegetables, grains and nuts. It includes few saturated
fats like the ones in red meat but plenty of healthier fatty acids
like ones found in olive oil.
Inflammation is a prime suspect
in a number of health problems, including heart disease, so Panagiotakos
and his colleagues set out to measure the effect of a Mediterranean-style
diet on inflammation and blood-clotting.
Over the course of a year, the
researchers interviewed roughly 3,000 Greek men and women. The
researchers also measured several proteins and other markers that
are associated with inflammation and blood clotting.
People who stuck most closely to
a traditional Mediterranean diet tended to have significantly
lower levels of the inflammation and blood-clotting markers, the
To make sure that the low levels
of these markers were truly related to diet and were not a reflection
of better overall health, the researchers accounted for many other
factors, including physical activity, smoking, age, gender, socioeconomic
status and several health conditions.
Even after taking into account
the other factors, the Mediterranean diet was still associated
with lower levels of inflammation and blood-clotting markers.
SOURCE: Journal of the American
College of Cardiology, July 7, 2004.
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