Health Watch - Eat Greek, Live Longer?

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Doctors may have figured out why the Mediterranean diet is so good for you.

Over the past decade or so, we've seen a number of reports of the benefits of the Mediterranean diet. This is a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, but low in saturated fats that come from red meat. Most of the fat in this diet comes from monounsaturated fats, such as olive oil, nuts and avocados. Doctors started studying this diet when they noticed that people who ate this kind of diet tended to live longer and were less likely to develop heart disease. Studies have shown that people who eat this kind of diet really are less likely to develop heart disease.

Researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas discovered 10 years ago that this diet was one of the best for managing diabetes and preventing heart disease in people with diabetes. That research led to changes in nutritional guidelines for diabetics.

Now some Greek researchers are studying why the Mediterranean diet is so beneficial. They interviewed and conducted tests on people who ate the traditional Mediterranean diet. The researchers found that people who ate the closest to the traditional diet had fewer markers for inflammation and blood clotting in their blood.  

Inflammation of the heart and blood vessels is considered to be a major factor in heart disease, and blood clots in vessels leading to the heart are what cause heart attacks, while clots in blood vessels leading to the brain can cause strokes. Researchers don't know yet if the Mediterranean diet is what causes lower inflammation and blood clotting markers, but they plan more research to study this link.

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July 2004

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