Mediterranean diet could save 20000 lives in the UK

A new observational study has indicated that as many as 20,000 deaths could be prevented in the UK, if Britons switched to a Mediterranean diet.
It has long been seen as one of the healthiest diets around, and is based on the standard diet followed by people living in the Mediterranean. It is high in fruit and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, olive oil and nuts, while being low in red meat. There is also a moderate consumption of poultry, fish and dairy, with red wine drunk on occasion.
Beginning in the 1990s, the research team gathered data on 23,902 healthy Brits from Norfolk, over an average period of 12 to 17 years. The participants answered food-frequency questionnaires, with the team scoring their diets based on the Mediterranean diet pyramid. The maximum possible score was following a diet containing 15 Mediterranean elements.
The top score awarded to any of the participants was 13.1, while the lowest was a score of 3. The researchers found that the higher a person’s score, the less likely they were to develop cardiovascular disease (CVD).
The researchers adjusted for lifestyle and other factors such as exercise and smoking, which could have caused inaccuracies in the results, and claim that it shows a strong link between a Mediterranean diet and heart health.
An estimated 12.5 per cent of deaths due to CVD (such as heart attacks or stroke) could be prevented by switching to a Mediterranean diet, the researchers estimate. This equates to 20,000 lives saved, based on there being approximately 160,000 deaths from CVD each year in the UK.
Lead author Dr Nita Forouhi, from the Medical Research Council (MRC) Epidemiology Unit at the University of Cambridge, said: “The benefits of the Mediterranean diet for cardiovascular health are well documented in countries of the Mediterranean region, but this is the first study to evaluate this in the UK.
“If our findings are broadly representative of the overall UK population, then we can assume that higher level of adherence to the Mediterranean diet could have significant impact in lowering the cardiovascular disease burden in the UK.
“Encouraging greater adoption of the Mediterranean diet looks like a promising component of a wider strategy to help prevent cardiovascular disease, including other important factors such as not smoking and maintaining a healthy weight, blood cholesterol and blood pressure.”
The study was published in the journal BMC Medicine.

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