Heart Healthy Beats

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Mediterranean diet and the heart

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This was my threaded discussion topic for Intro to Vitamin and Mineral Metabolism:

Years ago, everyone spoke about the benefits of vitamin E and the heart. It was called the love vitamin by many. Other than functioning as an antioxidant, what would you tell consumers about vitamin E and cardiovascular health? What did you find in the literature that you want to share to support your argument?

After researching the benefits of vitamin E and finding that no studies support supplementing with vitamin E but all state a diet full of fruits, vegetables, fortified grains, nuts and seeds, my professor decided I should elaborate on the Mediterranean Diet since one of my studies mentioned it briefly. I thought you guys would get something out of this.

Oldways, the Harvard School of Public Health, and the European Office of the World Health Organization introduced the classic Mediterranean Diet in 1993 at a conference in Cambridge, MA, along with a Mediterranean Diet Pyramid graphic to represent it visually.


Parts of the Mediterranean region that has shown the lowest recorded rates of coronary heart disease, certain cancers, and other diet related chronic diseases along with the highest adult life expectancy are proven to eat a similar diet as the one displayed below. (Willett, et al., 1995) The healthfulness of this pattern is corroborated by more than 50 years of epidemiological and experimental nutrition research. The frequency and amounts suggested are in most cases intentionally nonspecific, since variation was considerable. The historical pattern includes the following (several parenthetical notes add a contemporary public health perspective):

  • An abundance of food from plant sources, including fruits and vegetables, potatoes, breads and grains, beans, nuts, and seeds.
  • Emphasis on a variety of minimally processed and, wherever possible, seasonally fresh and locally grown foods (which often maximizes the health-promoting micronutrient and antioxidant content of these foods).
  • Olive oil as the principal fat, replacing other fats and oils (including butter and margarine).
  • Total fat ranging from less than 25 percent to over 35 percent of energy, with saturated fat no more than 7 to 8 percent of energy (calories).
  • Daily consumption of low to moderate amounts of cheese and yogurt (low-fat and non-fat versions may be preferable).
  • Twice-weekly consumption of low to moderate amounts of fish and poultry (recent research suggests that fish be somewhat favored over poultry); up to 7 eggs per week (including those used in cooking and baking).
  • Fresh fruit as the typical daily dessert; sweets with a significant amount of sugar (often as honey) and saturated fat consumed not more than a few times per week.
  • Red meat a few times per month (recent research suggests that if red meat is eaten, its consumption should be limited to a maximum of 12 to 16 ounces [340 to 450 grams] per month; where the flavor is acceptable, lean versions may be preferable).
  • Regular physical activity at a level which promotes a healthy weight, fitness and well-being.

Moderate consumption of wine, normally with meals; about one to two glasses per day for men and one glass per day for women. From a contemporary public health perspective, wine should be considered optional and avoided when consumption would put the individual or others at risk.

A randomized trial of the Mediterranean diet and cardiovascular risk revealed that persons at high cardiovascular risk, eating a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra virgin olive oil or nuts reduced the incidence of major cardiovascular events. 7447 patients were assigned to one of three groups. One group ate a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra virgin olive oil. Another group ate a Mediterranean diet supplemented with nuts. The last group ate a controlled diet. Participants were followed for a median of 4.8 years. Participants from all groups reported similar adherence to the diet at baseline. In this trial, an energy-unrestricted Mediterranean diet supplemented with either extra-virgin olive oil or nuts resulted in an absolute risk reduction of approximately 3 major cardiovascular events per 1000 person-years, for a relative risk reduction of approximately 30%, among high-risk persons who were initially free of cardiovascular disease. These results support the benefits of the Mediterranean diet for cardiovascular risk reduction. (Estruch, et al., 2013)

Estruch, R., Ros, E., Salas-Salvadó, J., Covas, M., Corella, D., Arós, F., et al. (2013). Primary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease with a Mediterranean Diet. The New England Journal of Medicine, 1279-1290.

Willett, W., Sacks, F., Trichopoulou, A., Drescher, G., Ferro-Luzzi, A., Helsing, E., et al. (1995). Mediterranean diet pyramid: a cultural model for healthy eating. The American Journal of Clinical Nutriton, 1402-1406.












Have you tried the Mediterranean diet? What do you like most about it.

Author: Ashley

A country girl spending her life in her garden and kitchen with her husband and two beautiful boys

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