Study says a Mediterranean diet is more effective for protecting the heart than statins

Thu, 01 Sep 2016

New research has indicated that following a Mediterranean diet is more beneficial for treating heart disease than statins, the most widely prescribed drugs in the UK, taken to lower cholesterol levels.

A study found a 37 per cent reduced risk of an early death among people with heart problems, if they followed a diet rich in vegetables, fish, oils and nuts. This was in comparison to people with heart problems who did not follow this type of diet, eating larger quantities of red meat instead.

Over a period of seven years, a team of researchers followed 1,200 people, who had a history of heart attacks, blocked arteries and strokes. During that time, 208 people died, and the researchers discovered that the closer a person's diet was to the much-praised Mediterranean diet, the less likely they were to die. This was true even after adjusting for gender, age, exercise, class and other factors.

The British Heart Foundation says that 27 per cent of all deaths in the UK are caused by cardiovascular disease, with it being the leading cause of death among Britons. This equates to approximately 155,000 people each year, or one death every three minutes.

It was thought that statins were the most effective way to tackle heart disease, but this new research into the effects of a healthy diet has significantly challenged this view. Currently, around seven million people in the UK take statins, at a cost of £285m to the NHS.

Professor Giovanni de Gaetano, a leading expert on heart disease, said: "The Mediterranean diet is widely recognised as one of the healthier nutrition habits in the world. In fact, many scientific studies have shown that a traditional Mediterranean lifestyle is associated with a lower risk of various chronic diseases and, more importantly, of death from any cause.

"So far, research has focused on the general population, which is mainly composed of healthy people. What happens to people who have already suffered from cardiovascular disease? Is the Mediterranean diet optimal for them too?"

The findings of the study were presented at the biggest heart conference in the world, in Rome.
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