Mediterranean Diet Lowers Heart Disease Risk, Even In Younger Adults
February 5, 2014

Mediterranean Diet Lowers Heart Disease Risk, Even In Younger Adults

Lee Rannals for - Your Universe Online

The popular Mediterranean diet has once again proven to be healthy, showing a lower risk of heart disease among a Midwestern group of firefighters.

Researchers from Harvard School of Public Health and Cambridge Health Alliance studied a large group of young Midwestern firefighters and found that those who stuck to a Mediterranean-style diet were less likely to develop cardiovascular disease later in life.

"Our study adds more evidence showing the health benefits of a Mediterranean diet, even after adjusting for exercise and body weight," Stefanos Kales, associate professor in the Department of Environmental Health at Harvard and chief of occupational and environmental medicine at Cambridge, said in a statement.

Mediterranean diets are considered to be rich in fish, nuts, vegetables and fruits and previous studies have shown that the diets lead to a lower risk of cardiovascular disease. However, those studies have primarily been conducted among older people. The latest study, published in the journal PLOS ONE, shows how the diet can be beneficial for even young American workers.

Researchers analyzed the medical, lifestyle and dietary data of 780 male firefighters from the Midwest. Firefighters have been known to have a high prevalence of obesity and risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

The team found that those firefighters who adhered to a Mediterranean-style diet showed a 35-percent decrease in metabolic syndrome. This syndrome is a condition that leads to a large waistline, high triglyceride levels, low “good” cholesterol levels, high blood pressure and high blood sugar, all of which are risk factors for heart disease. Researchers also discovered that the Mediterranean diet group had a 43-percent lower risk of weight gain when compared to the group that didn’t eat the diet.

Firefighters who ate the Mediterranean foods had higher levels of good cholesterol (HDL) and lower levels of bad cholesterol (LDL). The other group of firefighters with larger waistlines had a higher intake of fast foods and sugary drinks.

Next, the team wants to take this study to a more common workplace and see how the results match up with the firefighter study.

"The logical next steps from our investigation are studies using the workplace to specifically promote Mediterranean dietary habits among firefighters and other U.S. workers," Justin Yang, lead author of the study and a post-doctoral fellow at Harvard, said in a statement.