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Shereen Jegtvig, MS

Mediterranean Diet Study and Your Heart - Results Overrated

By February 26, 2013

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The recent study published in The New England Journal of Medicine is receiving quite the buzz this week. I've seen claims of reducing heart disease risk on blogs and media sites all over the Internet. So I took a look at the study, published in full text here. Guess what? I don't think the results reported live up to the hype. The control group was messed up and a peek at the statistics (things like risk ratios and confidence intervals that most people reading all the blogs probably don't look at) shows me that most of the results aren't significant and certainly not for heart disease risk. There is a statistically significant drop in strokes (one type of cardiovascular disease), which is a good thing, but that's it. And actually, the control group (a sort-of but not really low-fat group) had the fewest deaths from all causes.

This is why I don't really write much about nutrition and diet studies - and I don't jump on the latest band wagons anymore. Don't get me wrong, when it's followed correctly, the Mediterranean diet is a healthy diet, but is it really much (or any) better than a well-designed balanced diet in the right proportions? I doubt it, really. Same for low-fat, low-carb, vegetarian, vegan, whatever. If you prefer to follow a specific type of diet, that's great, many of them are healthful when you do them right - just be sure to pick the healthiest whole foods, keep your calorie count in check, and watch out for the too-far-out-there fad diets that promise more than they can deliver.

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