How the Mediterranean diet lowers risk of cardiovascular disease

In a study partly funded by NHLBI, a team of researchers found a 25 percent reduction in the risk of cardiovascular disease among participants who consumed a Mediterranean-type diet rich in plants and olive oil and low in meats and sweets.

Previous research has linked the Mediterranean diet to reductions in cardiovascular disease, which includes heart disease and stroke. In the current study, the scientist went further in the understanding of why and how this diet has such effect.

The research, published in JAMA Network Open, is based on data from more than 25,000 female health professionals who participated in the NHLBI-funded Women's Health Study.

“Our study has a strong public health message that modest changes in known cardiovascular disease risk factors, particularly those relating to inflammation, glucose metabolism and insulin resistance, contribute to the long-term benefit of a Mediterranean diet on cardiovascular disease risk. This understanding may have important downstream consequences for the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease,” said lead author Shafqat Ahmad, Ph.D., a research fellow at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital and at the Harvard Chan School.