NEWS

Mediterranean diet keeps cardiovascular disease at a distance

The traditional Mediterranean diet can prove a lifesaver for people suffering from cardiovascular disease, because it significantly lowers the risk of heart attack. Experts say the Mediterranean diet can be more effective than medication. A survey of 1,302 Greeks with cardiovascular disease that was published in the latest issue of the American periodical Archives of Internal Medicine shows that at least two out of the nine elements in the daily Mediterranean diet can, in the space of four years, reduce the likelihood of a fatal heart attack by 31 percent. Antonia Trichopoulou, professor of epidemiology and hygiene at Athens University, who directed the research, told Kathimerini that the basic elements of the Mediterranean diet are olive oil, lots of vegetables, fruit, whole-grain cereals, legumes and fish, a limited quantity of dairy products, a little wine with meals, and a little meat. «But,» said Trichopoulou, the components of the Mediterranean diet don’t have such a great effect on the body when taken separately as they do when incorporated into the overall diet. Minerals and anti-oxidants found in the correct proportions in the Mediterranean diet act jointly. «By following the Mediterranean diet properly,» she explained, «people who suffer from cardiovascular disease get greater benefits than they do from medication or other diets.» It seems that the Greek version of the Mediterranean diet is the most effective. «When we talk about the Mediterranean diet, we mean the eating habits of all the countries on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea, but they differ,» said Trichopoulou. «People in Spain eat more fish, for example. The peculiarity of the traditional Greek diet is the focus on legumes and vegetables cooked in olive oil: Greeks get 40 percent of the energy in their diet from lipids in olive oil. «But consumption of olive oil has decreased in recent years as margarine, butter and seed oils have been added to the Greek diet. Besides, the younger generation of Greeks eat far more meat. We could say that the older generation of Greeks is more devoted to the Mediterranean than the coming generation.» Of the sample in the study, 22 percent did not follow the Mediterranean diet (including at most two of its elements in their regimen); 41 percent included three to four elements, and 37 percent five or more elements. In conclusion, said Trichopoulou, «both the medical profession and the state should promote the Mediterranean diet as a matter of policy.»