The following article by Andrea Petersen is reprinted from The Wall Street Journal, February 26, 2013.
Olive Oil Diet Curbs Strokes
A diet common in coastal areas of Southern Europe, particularly one with lots of olive oil and nuts, cuts the risk of stroke and other major cardiovascular problems by 30 percent among high-risk people, according to a new study.
There’s a large body of research linking a Mediterranean diet—one heavy on fruits, vegetables, fish and beans—to heart health. But this study, published Monday in the New England Journal of Medicine, is significant both for its size—it followed 7,447 people in Spain over almost 5 years—and its scientific rigor. Few previous studies have succeeded in proving a direct link between a diet and a reduction in life-threatening events like strokes, instead assessing the diet’s impact only on weight loss or certain cardiovascular risk factors, like blood pressure or cholesterol.
“I’m going to change my own diet; add some more olive oil, some more nuts.”
—Dr. Steven Nissen, chairman of the department of cardiovascular medicine at the Cleveland Clinic
The study is “hugely important,” says Steven Nissen, chairman of the department of cardiovascular medicine at the Cleveland Clinic, who was not involved in the study. Dr. Nissen notes that the preventive effect of the diet is similar to the effect of taking statins, the cholesterol-lowering drugs, which research has shown to reduce the risk of major cardiovascular events by about 25 percent to 30 percent. “What we can say to patients is this very palatable Mediterranean diet looks to be healthiest. I’m going to change my own diet; add some more olive oil, some more nuts.” ….
The benefit demonstrated by the Mediterranean diet was so striking, the study was stopped early. Clinical trials are sometimes halted early to allow all participants to switch to a clearly beneficial treatment.