Mediterranean diet improves heart

June 16th, 2010 - 3:06 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, June 16 (IANS) Eating a Mediterranean style diet is good for the heart.
The diet — low saturated fats and high in fish, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, olive oil, cereals and moderate alcohol consumption — reduces the risk of heart diseases.

Using data from the Emory University Twins Heart Study, researchers found that men eating a Mediterranean style diet had greater heart rate variability (HRV) than those eating a Western diet.

HRV refers to variation in the time interval between heart beats. Reduced HRV is a factor for coronary artery disease and sudden death.

“The autonomic system, controlling someone’s heart rate works better in people who eat a diet similar to a Mediterranean diet,” said Jun Dai, study author and assistant professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Indiana University, Bloomington.

How the diet helps reduce the risk of coronary disease remains unknown.

Dai and her colleagues analysed dietary data obtained from a food frequency questionnaire and cardiac data results from 276 identical and fraternal male twins.

They evaluated each participant on how closely his food intake correlated with the Mediterranean diet; higher the score, greater the similarity to a Mediterranean style diet.

To measure HRV, participants had their heart’s electrical activity continuously measured and recorded with a Holter Monitor, a portable, battery operated electrocardiogram device.

Using twins allowed team members to assess the influence of the diet on HRV while controlling for genetic and other familial influence, said an Indiana University release.

Measurements of HRV showed that the higher a person’s diet score, the more variable the heart beat-to-beat time interval. This equates to a nine percent to 14 percent reduction in heart-related death.

These findings appeared in Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, an American Heart Association journal.

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