Mediterranean diet may be more helpful than statins

Story highlights

  • A study found people with heart problems who stuck with the Mediterranean diet had a 37% lower risk of death
  • A lot of doctors like the Mediterranean diet because there are a lot of menu options

(CNN)The Mediterranean diet has been credited with doing everything from helping you lose weight to living longer to improving the health of your brain. A new study, looking at its effect on people with poor heart health, shows that the diet may be a huge help for that, too.

The observational study was presented at the European Society of Cardiology conference this weekend. It showed that the people who have had a history of cardiovascular disease and stuck closest to the diet had a 37% lower risk of death compared with those who didn't stick with it.
A Mediterranean diet is one that is heavy on vegetables and legumes, fish, fruit, nuts and whole grains.
Food is cooked in olive oil rather than butter or some other kind of oil. Carnivores can keep poultry and lean cuts of meat on their Mediterranean menu. Red meat, processed food and sugar are off of it.
The diet seems to do even better than one of the most prescribed options (PDF) for people with heart problems: cholesterol-lowering statins. On average, statins reduce risk of heart problems about 24%, according to earlier studies. That means the diet looks like a real winner to help with heart health.
A lot of doctors like the diet because there are a lot of menu options with it. It even allows for a glass of wine or beer a day, allowing people to stick with it a lot easier than other diets. The new US Dietary Guidelines included the Mediterranean diet as one option Americans could use to stay healthy.
Earlier studies showed that people eating the Mediterranean diet have a lower risk of heart attack and stroke. It may lower your risk of cancer, improve your bone health and help you live longer generally.
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Because the new study is only observational, meaning the subjects acted independently, more research will be needed. But if you have a history of heart problems or your family has had heart issues, you may want to make a switch to this diet.