Mediterranean diet improves heart health but not body composition?

Mediterranean Diet 300x161 Mediterranean diet improves heart health but not body composition?“Pass the nuts please” could be the new thing being said around the dinner table after a recent study out of Spain.

The findings that were published on The New England Journal of Medicine’s Web site on Monday, were based on the first major clinical trial to measure the diet’s effect on heart risks. The magnitude of the diet’s benefits startled experts. The study ended early, after almost five years, because the results were so clear it was considered unethical to continue.

Until now, evidence that the Mediterranean diet reduced the risk of heart disease was weak, based mostly on studies showing that people from Mediterranean countries seemed to have lower rates of heart disease — a pattern that could have been attributed to factors other than diet.

Many studies have shown that people who eat a Mediterranean diet are less likely to die of heart disease. This one was powerful because it randomly assigned people to eat such a diet as part of their normal lives over several years, says Maggie Fox of NBC News.

For decades, people have heard that reducing fat in your diet will lead to a healthier cardiovascular system.  But low fat diets have not been proven to help and most patients studied found it hard to stick to such a restrictive diet— a reality borne out in the new study, said Dr. Steven E. Nissen, chairman of the department of cardiovascular medicine at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation.

First, your body needs some fat — the healthy fats — cutting out fat totally from your diet could hinder many of your body’s important functions. If you try to avoid all fat, you risk getting insufficient amounts of fat-soluble vitamins and essential fatty acids. Also, in attempting to remove fat from your diet, you may wind up eating too many processed foods touted as low-fat or fat-free rather than healthier and naturally lower fat foods, such as fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains. Instead of doing away with fat in your diet, enjoy healthy fats in moderation

On the surface this study is good news for folks who have a risk for heart disease. But the people in the study did not lose weight. This could be largely because calories were not tracked. For fitness goals like weight loss, reducing body fat, and improving your body composition–adding more fat (and calories) may not be the answer.

Learn more about the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, issued by the Department of Agriculture, which offers recommendations about dietary fat intake.

The secret to improved health includes not just a heart healthy diet but consistent exercise and lifestyle changes.

Contact me to get a custom prepared Meditteranean diet & exercise program.

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