Mediterranean Diet is More Effective Than Low-Fat Diets in Treating Atherosclerosis

August 20, 2021

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The Mediterranean diet is more effective than a low-fat diet in reducing progression of atherosclerosis and coronary heart disease, according to new data from the Coronary Diet Intervention With Olive Oil and Cardiovascular Prevention (CORDIOPREV) study.

The effectiveness of the Mediterranean diet in preventing coronary heart disease has been well established. A new study, published August 2021 in Stroke, shows that the diet can also treat and reduce the progression of the disease. [1]

"The current study is, to our knowledge, the first to establish an effective dietary strategy for secondary cardiovascular prevention, reinforcing the fact that the Mediterranean diet rich in extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) could prevent the progression of atherosclerosis," the study team says.
The data also show that patients with a higher atherosclerotic burden might benefit the most from the Mediterranean diet.

During the CORDIOPREV study, half of the patients followed a Mediterranean diet rich in extra virgin olive oil, fruit and vegetables, whole grains, fish, and nuts. The other half followed a diet low in fat and rich in complex carbohydrates. 

The Mediterranean diet significantly decreased artery thickness both after 5 years and after 7 years.  In contrast, the low-fat diet did not exert any change on thickness of the carotid artery. 

The Mediterranean diet also produced a greater decrease in arterial plaque maximum height, compared with the low-fat diet throughout follow-up.

Earlier data from CORDIOPREV showed that after 1 year of eating a Mediterranean diet, compared with the low-fat diet, circulation was improved among patients with Coronary Heart Disease, even those with type 2 diabetes.

The Mediterranean diet may also increase heart-healthy high-density cholesterol levels. The anti-inflammatory capacity of the Mediterranean diet could be another factor that contributes to reducing the progression of atherosclerosis, according to the researchers.

This is great news. Atherosclerosis is the leading cause of death in Western countries. Following the Mediterranean diet with extra virgin olive oil has been shown to prevent and treat the disease.  The best part is the the Mediterranean diet was named the "easiest diet to follow" by US News and World Report [2]. This and other studies show that difficult to follow low-fat diets are not necessary to improve cardiovascular health.

[1] CORonary Diet Intervention with Olive oil and cardiovascular PREVention study (the CORDIOPREV study): Rationale, methods, and baseline characteristics: A clinical trial comparing the efficacy of a Mediterranean diet rich in olive oil versus a low-fat diet on cardiovascular disease in coronary patients

[2] Easiest Diets to Follow

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Posted in: Olive Oil for Health