Mediterranean diet lowers risk of stroke in heart patients

Posted on April 25, 2016 12:17 am

A study published yesterday in the European Heart Journal reveals that the “Mediterranean” diet, lowers heart attack and stroke risk in people already with the heart disease.The study covered 39 countries with participants eating a Mediterranean diet showed a lower risk of heart attack and stroke. Researchers believe this style of eating offers some protection against mental aging, and, above all else, it is heart healthy.The research team assessed the Mediterranean diet score(MDS) of 15,482 people with stable coronary artery disease. The teams was Led by Professor Ralph Stewart from the University of Auckland, New Zealand.With an average age of 67, each was a participant in GlaxoSmithKline’s STABILITY drug trial, created to learn whether the drug reduced the risk of heart attacks, strokes, and deaths. Participants lived in Western and Eastern Europe, North and South America, and the Asia Pacific region.They found 3.7 years later that a major adverse cardiovascular event, including heart attack, stroke or death, only happened in 7.3 percent of people with MDS score of 15 and above, only 10.5 percent in people whose MDS is between 13-14 and only 10.8 percent of people with 12 or below MDS.The researchers also assessed the participants’ Western diet score (WDS), which included eating unhealthy foods such as refined grains, sweets, desserts, sugared drinks and deep-fried foods.

Despite the common belief that this diet is bad for one’s health, the researchers did not find any link between high WDS and increased instances of heart attack, stroke or death.According to Professor Stewart, the meaning behind the numbers is clear. Instead of avoiding unhealthy foods, people with weak hearts might focus more on consuming healthy foods. That said, Stewart notes his study has limitations, including a lack of strict guidelines about portion size and no measure of total calories. He added: “The research suggests we should place more emphasis on encouraging people with heart disease to eat more healthy foods, and perhaps focus less on avoiding unhealthy foods.” However,Stewart warned that this did not mean that people could eat unhealthy foods with impunity.”The main message is that some foods and particularly fruit and vegetables  seem to lower the risk of heart attacks and strokes, and this benefit is not explained by traditional risk factors such as good and bad cholesterol or blood pressure. If you eat more of these foods in preference to others, you may lower your risk. The study found no evidence of harm from modest consumption of foods such as refined carbohydrates, deep fried foods, sugars and deserts. However, because the assessments were relatively crude, some harm cannot be excluded.

Also, the study did not assess the total intake of calories, which is a major determinant of obesity-related health problems, and we were unable to assess good fats and bad fats, so we can not comment of their importance to health.The researchers did not specify what a “serving” of food might be and relied on people’s interpretation of it and this usually meant that a serving might be an individual piece of fruit, a portion of meat, fish, vegetables or grains that would be enough for one person. This is a limitation of the study, but also a strength. Prof Stewart said: “We did not specify what a serving meant because we needed to make the questionnaire very simple and intuitive, so that it would be easy and quick to complete. This is a limitation because the estimates of foods eaten are relatively crude and imprecise, but also a strength because we were able to show that even though diet is very complex, a few simple questions can identify a dietary pattern associated with a lower risk of recurrent heart attacks or strokes.”Reading through these findings,it was clear to me the study has some limitations. For example researchers did not consider the participants’ good fats, bad fats and total calorie intake, a strong factor for obesity-related diseases. They also did not explain what a serving means on their health questionnaires due to convenience purposes.Overall, the results remained the same in the 39 countries involved.Therefore, the researchers advise is that one should focus less on avoiding such unhealthy foods and should focus more on eating healthy foods instead.

Contador Harrison