The Mediterranean diet which is high in vegetables, whole grains, fish, and olive oil, not only helps you lose weight but may also help reduce the risk of having another heart attack.
The study, published in the journal PLOS Medicine, compared the effects of two different healthy diets on the endotheliem, the walls that cover the arteries.
“We observed that the Mediterranean diet model induced better endothelial function, meaning that the arteries were more flexible in adapting to different situations in which greater blood flow is required,” said study author José López Miranda from the University of Córdoba in Spain.
“Besides, the endothelium’s ability to regenerate was better and we detected a drastic reduction in damage to the endothelium, even in patients at severe risk,” Miranda added.
According to the researchers, 1,002 patients who had previously had an acute myocardial infarction took part in the study and were monitored over the course of a year.
The research group had previously worked on a similar study with healthy patients, however, this is the first time it has been done with ill patients, who are more likely to have other heart attacks.
“The degree of endothelial damage predicts the occurrence of future cardiovascular events, as in acute myocardial infarctions,” Miranda said.
“If we can take action at the inital stages, prompting endothelium regeneration and better endothelial function, we can help to prevent heart attacks and heart disease from reoccurring”, Miranda explained.
During the study, half of the patients were told to follow a Mediterranean diet, based on using plenty of virgin olive oil, eating fruit and vegetables every day, and having three servings of legumes, three fish, and three nuts a week.
In addition, they were told to cut down on eating meat, especially red meat, and to avoid additional fats such as margarine and butter as well as food that is high in sugar.
In contrast, the other group was told to follow a low-fat diet, based on limiting all kinds of fat, both animal and plant, and increasing their intake of complex carbohydrates.
They were told to cut down on red meat, to choose low-fat dairy products, to avoid eating nuts, and to reduce their intake of sweets and pastries.
The findings showed the benefits of the Mediterranean diet. In patients with heart disease, the diet is helping them to reduce the likelihood of having another heart attack.