Mediterranean diet can slash heart & stroke risk

The diet your heart has been waiting for

By Dr. Mark Stengler

Everyone’s looking for the perfect diet — the “secret” to losing weight and getting healthy without having to give up too many of the foods they love.

Well, you don’t have to look very far, because new research finds one diet that can slash your risk of major cardiovascular events by nearly a third, including a reduction in stroke risk of up to 46 percent.

And it’s the same common-sense easy-to-follow diet I’ve written to you about so often — the Mediterranean diet that’s proven to boost the heart, protect the brain, and keep your waistline right where it needs to be.

What makes the new study so amazing is that this wasn’t simply a survey where people were asked about their eating habits, as is so often the case with diet research.

It was an honest-to-goodness long-term clinical trial, where 7,447 people between 55 and 80 years old, all facing a high risk of heart disease, were randomly assigned to either a low-fat diet or one of two variations of the Mediterranean diet.

One had more nuts, the other had more olive oil — but either way, it handily beat the low-fat diet by just about every important cardiovascular measure over the five-year study period. What I like about the Mediterranean diet isn’t just the results (although those are plenty important). It’s that it’s realistic.

The patients who were assigned to the low-fat diet did what you probably did when you tried it. (And who hasn’t tried it at least once?) They gave up.

In the end, they managed to reduce their fat consumption by only 2 percent, and largely reverted back to the regular mainstream diet that’s made so many people overweight and sick, according to the data published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The patients on the Mediterranean diet, on the other hand, were able to keep at it, enjoying all the literal fruits of this healthy lifestyle — not to mention nuts, fresh fish, lean meats, plenty of whole grains, and more. They were even allowed to drink wine and eat dark chocolate — although I’d personally recommend enjoying both in moderation or less.

The only shortcoming in the study was in weight loss. The volunteers all started out overweight or obese — and, five years later, they remained overweight and obese. But that’s because they were allowed to eat as much as they wanted, as long as they ate the foods allowed on their diet. They weren’t asked to try portion control, and they weren’t asked to get a little exercise.

Imagine how much better the results would have been if they had. But you don’t have to imagine — you can see for yourself. Try this diet, but don’t stop with changes to your dinner plate. Make sure you limit your calories enough to lose weight and get the exercise your body needs for fitness.

I don’t need a study to know what’ll happen next — weight loss and an even lower risk of heart problems.

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