Mediterranean diet can reduce death risk due to heart attack, stroke, study finds

Mediterranean diet can reduce death risk due to heart attack, stroke, study finds

The Mediterranean diet can help reduce the likelihood of death from heart attack and stroke in at-risk patients, according to a new review of studies.

While current guidelines recommend several dietary programmes for patients at high risk of heart disease, they generally rely on low certainty evidence, say researchers, including those from the University of Manitoba in Canada.

In the new study, published on Tuesday in The BMJ, researchers conducted the first comparative review based on randomised trials of seven popular dietary programmes, which are diets either with or without exercise and other health behaviour support.

Scientists assessed databases for randomised trials looking at the impact of various dietary programmes for preventing death and major heart events in patients at higher risk of cardiovascular disease.

They identified 40 eligible trials involving over 35,500 participants who were followed for an average of three years across seven named dietary programmes.

These included low fat dietary programmes, Mediterranean, very low fat, modified fat, combined low fat and low sodium.

Researchers found that Mediterranean dietary programmes were better than minimal intervention at preventing all cause mortality, non-fatal heart attack, and stroke for patients at intermediate risk of cardiovascular disease.

Low fat programmes were also found to be superior to minimal intervention with moderate certainty for prevention of all cause mortality and non-fatal heart attack.

Both these dietary programmes were found to have more pronounced positive effects for patients at high risk of heart disease, while the other dietary programmes generally had little or no benefit compared with minimal intervention.

Citing some of the limitations of the study, researchers say they were unable to measure the participants’ adherence to the dietary programmes and the possibility that some of the benefits may have come from other elements within the programs like cessation of smoking.

However they say the review is based on a thorough literature search, concluding that Mediterranean and low fat dietary programmes “probably reduce the risk of mortality and non-fatal myocardial infarction in people at increased cardiovascular risk.”

“Mediterranean programmes are also likely to reduce stroke risk. Generally, other named dietary programmes were not superior to minimal intervention,” researchers added.