NEW ORLEANS, Nov. 12 For individuals who have already had a heart attack, a Mediterranean style diet rich in olive oil, fruit, vegetables and fish might be one of the best prescriptions for a longer life, researchers report today at the American Heart Associations Scientific Sessions 2000.
Despite the fact that good dietary habits are known to be the cornerstone of heart health, there is limited data demonstrating the amount of benefit for individuals who have had a heart attack, says Roberto Marchioli, M.D., co-coordinator of the GISSI-Prevenzione Study at the department of clinical pharmacology and epidemiology of Consorzio Mario Negri Sud, Santa Maria Imbaro, Italy.
A significantly lower risk of death was associated with eating more Mediterranean- style foods and fewer foods containing saturated fats, such as butter, says Marchioli. People in the study who had the most butter and vegetable oils in their diet had a risk of death almost triple that of people who ate more fresh fruits and vegetables and used olive oil.
Though relatively high in fat, the Mediterranean diet is considered healthy because it is rich in potentially protective nutrients: antioxidants such as vitamin E from fruits and vegetables, monounsaturated fatty acids from olive oil and polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) from fish. In general, fewer residents of Mediterranean countries, including Spain, Greece and Italy, die from coronary heart disease than their northern neighbors. Marchiolis team was curious about the benefits of following the Mediterranean diet after a heart attack.
The GISSI-Prevenzione study, a large-scale clinical trial organized by the Italian National Association of Hospital Cardiologists and the Mario Negri Institute, evaluated the long-term changes in dietary habits of 11,324 Italians after their heart attacks. The study also assessed the effectiveness of prescribing extra amounts of substances they usually get from their diet specifically, n-3
Contact: Darcy Spitz
American Heart Association