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Monday, February 25, 2013

Breaking News: Mediterranean Diet and Heart Disease

A study was publicized today that suggests that about 30% of heart attacks, strokes, and deaths from heart disease can be prevented in people who are considered at high risk if they switch to a "Mediterranean Diet" - one rich in olive oil, nuts, beans, fruits and vegetables.  Published in the New England Journal of Medicine's website today (Monday February 25th), apparently the study ended early (after only 5 years) because the results were so clear that continuing it would have been unethical.  The researchers said that more research is needed to establish the diet's benefit for people at low risk.  The study's results immediately caused some critics to respond - Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn and Dr. Dean Ornish among them.  Esselystn (of Forks Over Knives fame) promotes a vegan diet and does not recommend olive oil.  Dr. Ornish (promoter of a low fat diet) challenged the study's conclusions that it was more effective than a low-fat diet based on the study's methodology and control's group diet.  He also took exception with the statements that the diet reduced heart attacks, death from cardiovascular causes or death from any cause but did not challenge the conclusions about the Meditteranean Diet's effect on reducing strokes. 

While there are some definite distinctions between the Meditteranean Diet, Dr. Esselstyn's recommended diet and Dr. Ornish's diet including the fact that Esselstyn does not support consuming oils, Esselystn and Ornish promote vegan diets (whereas the Meditteranean diet allows eating eating fish, poultry, eggs, and cheese), and the Meditteranean Diet definitely includes the consumption of more fat than Ornish Diet - commonalities include heavy consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables and whole foods and absolutely no red meat.  As the researchers who released the results of this study (suggesting the positive implications of following the Meditteranean Diet), Dr. Esselstyn and Dr. Ornish are all promoting some common dietary habits - whether you follow a Vegan Diet like Dr. Esselstyn and Dr. Ornish promote that is very low in fat or the Meditteranean Diet - either option is SIGNIFICANTLY healthier than the Western Diet (one that is high in saturated fats, red meats, junk food, and low in fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, seafood and poultry).   

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