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The public and science go ‘nuts’ over the Mediterranean diet

Photo: Maxpax via Flickr

Last month, Health Talk highlighted the best and worst diets for 2014 as determined by U.S. News & World Report. Once again, the Mediterranean diet was among the top overall diets, coming in tied at #3. Now, a new study by the Harvard School of Public Health has added some additional fuel to the Mediterranean diet fire.

The study tracked 780 male Midwestern firefighters over the age of 18 and concluded that firefighters who closely followed the Mediterranean diet had fewer risk factors for heart disease than those who did not eat this diet.

The good news for the public is you don’t have to be a firefighter to reap the benefits of the Mediterranean diet.

For those not familiar with the Mediterranean diet, it is full of fruits and vegetables, olive oil, fish, beans, nuts and whole-grain breads and cereals. One of the key factors in the heart healthy dietary effort is that meals following the Mediterranean diet are low on red meat, processed foods and sugar-packed sweets.

This diet has been closely associated with a lowered risk of obesity, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and other significant risk factors for heart disease which could lead to heart attack or stroke.

Health Talk asked David Jacobs, Ph.D., a professor in the Division of Epidemiology & Community Health in the School of Public Health at the University of Minnesota, for his thoughts on the Harvard study’s findings.

“Americans don’t live in the Mediterranean and do not eat as people in the Mediterranean do.  However, researchers have identified several dietary variants that we call “prudent” that follow very similar principles to Mediterranean eating,” said Jacobs. “The recent study around firefighters following Mediterranean dietary principles is one of many that show benefit. However, the news is actually even better: these diets, rich in foods processed to maintain the many biochemicals that are found in plant foods, are actually associated with a longer, healthier life.”

For more study findings, please see this article that appeared in USA Today and a previous Health Talk post.

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