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Type of Fat You Consume Important for Risk of Heart Disease

A recent groundbreaking study has shown that the type of calories and fat you eat have the most influence on your risk of cardiovascular disease. Participants in the study who followed the Mediterranean diet supplemented with walnuts or olive oil showed a 30% lower risk of suffering a cardiovascular event compared to participants who followed a low-fat diet.

The Mediterranean diet is based on the eating habits of people in the Mediterranean region of the world. It incorporates a lot of omega-3 fatty acids, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and whole grains. It also has a very limited amount of refined grains, saturated fats, and sugars.

The study included 7,447 participants between the ages of 55 and 80 who were at high risk of developing symptoms of cardiovascular disease. From 2003 to 2011, the participants were split into three groups:

1. control group following a low-fat, American Heart Association guidelines diet

2. Mediterranean diet supplemented with 30 g of nuts (15 g walnuts, 7.5 g almonds, 7.5 g hazelnuts) daily

3. Mediterranean diet supplemented with 50 ml of virgin olive oil daily.

The risk of stroke was reduced by 49% in the intervention groups and the risk of a cardiovascular event occurring overall was reduced by 30%. Additionally, the intervention groups registered lower blood pressure, fewer incidences of type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome, better glucose profiles, and better blood lipid profiles.

The control group actually consumed fewer calories and higher fat content than the olive oil or nut group. The researchers conjectured that this highlights the fact that the “good” fats found in olive oil and nuts are actually good for heart health, and the type of fat you consume is more important than the amount of fat you consume.

The study was conducted by researchers from a variety of Spanish universities and institutions and was published online ahead of print on February 25, 2013, in The New England Journal of Medicine.

Previous research has shown that the Mediterranean diet may lower the risk of Alzheimer’s, diabetes, asthma, lower rates of obesity and even decrease the overall risk of mortality.

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