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The results of a five-year-long clinical trial appear to prove once and for all that we should all be eating like the Greeks. The study, published this week in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that while people ages 55-80 on the Mediterranean diet did not lose any weight, their risk of heart disease and stroke decreased by almost 30 per cent compared to those on a typical low-fat diet.
The study took place in Spain, where scientists randomly assigned 7,447 people who were either overweight, smokers, diabetic, or had any other heart disease risk factors to follow the Mediterranean diet or a low-fat one.
It was particularly significant because it was considered to be the first major clinical trial to measure the diet’s effect on heart risks. The results were so clear that by the end of five years, it was thought “unethical” to continue the study.
Research supporting the effectiveness of the Mediterranean diet is nothing new, and it has long been associated with reduced risk for heart attack, cancer, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases. Most analysis, however, has focused on the health of those living in Mediterranean countries (such as Greece and Southern Italy) who were already on the diet.
Mediterranean diets are heavy on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nuts, and replace butter with olive and canola oils. Instead of using salt to flavour foods, the Mediterranean diet uses herbs and spices, and dieters are encouraged to eat fish and poultry at least twice a week and limit red meat to no more than a few times a month.
But it’s all about being balanced — the diet also allows you to enjoy sweets in moderation, an occasional glass of red wine, and to try to eat as many meals as possible with family and friends.
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