Primary prevention of cardiovascular disease with a Mediterranean diet.
The New England journal of medicine. 2013;368(14):1279-90
Plain language summary
The traditional Mediterranean diet has been shown to have cardiovascular protective effects based on previous observational cohort studies and a secondary prevention trial. While the mechanism for the beneficial effects of this diet have not been established, small trials have suggested that it fosters favourable changes in the pathways involved in cardio-metabolic disease. The aim of this randomised trial was to test the efficacy of two variations of the Mediterranean diet on reducing the incidence of cardiovascular events. These diets included Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil or mixed nuts, and a control diet (advised to reduce dietary fat). The study included 7,447 participants aged 55-80 and participants were followed for an average of 4.8 years. Both groups showed good adherence to the diets. The findings of this study showed that among persons at high cardiovascular risk, both variations of the Mediterranean diet resulted to a significant risk reduction of cardiovascular events, notably stroke. Based on this study, the authors’ conclusions support the benefits of the Mediterranean diet for the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease.
BACKGROUND Observational cohort studies and a secondary prevention trial have shown an inverse association between adherence to the Mediterranean diet and cardiovascular risk. We conducted a randomized trial of this diet pattern for the primary prevention of cardiovascular events. METHODS In a multicenter trial in Spain, we randomly assigned participants who were at high cardiovascular risk, but with no cardiovascular disease at enrollment, to one of three diets: a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil, a Mediterranean diet supplemented with mixed nuts, or a control diet (advice to reduce dietary fat). Participants received quarterly individual and group educational sessions and, depending on group assignment, free provision of extra-virgin olive oil, mixed nuts, or small nonfood gifts. The primary end point was the rate of major cardiovascular events (myocardial infarction, stroke, or death from cardiovascular causes). On the basis of the results of an interim analysis, the trial was stopped after a median follow-up of 4.8 years. RESULTS A total of 7447 persons were enrolled (age range, 55 to 80 years); 57% were women. The two Mediterranean-diet groups had good adherence to the intervention, according to self-reported intake and biomarker analyses. A primary end-point event occurred in 288 participants. The multivariable-adjusted hazard ratios were 0.70 (95% confidence interval [CI], 0.54 to 0.92) and 0.72 (95% CI, 0.54 to 0.96) for the group assigned to a Mediterranean diet with extra-virgin olive oil (96 events) and the group assigned to a Mediterranean diet with nuts (83 events), respectively, versus the control group (109 events). No diet-related adverse effects were reported. CONCLUSIONS Among persons at high cardiovascular risk, a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil or nuts reduced the incidence of major cardiovascular events. (Funded by the Spanish government's Instituto de Salud Carlos III and others; Controlled-Trials.com number, ISRCTN35739639.).