The Mediterranean diet has long been known to be a heart-healthy way to eat. New research shows that the diet also may protect against peripheral artery disease (PAD), or the clogging and hardening of the arteries that supply blood to the extremities.
The Mediterranean diet emphasizes fruits, veggies, whole grains, beans, nuts, legumes, olive oil and flavorful herbs and spices; eating fish and seafood at least a couple of times a week; enjoying poultry, eggs, cheese and yogurt in moderation; saving sweets and red meat for special occasions; drinking red wine in moderation and with meals; and physical activity.
University of Navarra researchers in Pamplona, Spain studied the Mediterranean diet’s effect on PAD. Their study involved 7,500 people, all of whom had at least three cardiovascular risk factors or Type 2 diabetes mellitus.
The participants, whose average age was 67, were divided into three groups. One group received counseling on eating a low-fat diet. A second group ate a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil. The third group ate a Mediterranean diet supplemented with nuts.
The results showed that both groups eating the Mediterranean diet had a lower risk of PAD compared to the group that was merely counseled about a low-fat diet. The researchers say their study is the first to show such a link.
Dietary intervention provides health protection
Julia Zumpano, RD, didn’t take part in the study but is a registered dietitian at Cleveland Clinic. She says the results were not surprising, considering that the Mediterranean diet delivers the most health protection of the comparable large-scale diets.
“The Mediterranean diet provides the lowest in saturated fat, highest in fiber, highest in omega-3 than any of the others,” she says.
Researchers say the findings are consistent with the result of other studies.
“If you’re looking to prevent your risk of developing any type of heart or vascular disease, the Mediterranean diet is the way to go,” she says, adding that it’s fairly easy to adopt the diet by gradually incorporate elements.
The research was published online Tuesday as a research letter in the Journal of the American Medical Association.