Mediterranean Diet Linked to Lower Risk of Cardiovascular Disease Among U.S. Firefighters

First Posted: Feb 05, 2014 07:30 AM EST

The traditional Mediterranean diet has long been touted as a healthy eating plan. A latest study says that the Mediterranean diet is linked to lower risk factors for cardiovascular diseases.

The study by researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health and Cambridge Health Alliance, CHA, reveals that young firefighters who follow the Mediterranean diet are less susceptible to cardiovascular diseases (CVD).

Over recent years, many studies have discovered a link between the Mediterranean diet and lower risk of heart disease. The latest study is the first to look at the effects of Mediterranean diet in a particular group of young working adults.

The Mediterranean diet mainly consists of nuts, fruits, vegetables, fish, eggs and olive oil. It is hard to pick which element among these is crucial.

Obesity is prevelant among U.S. firefighters, according to the study, which is one of the highest risk factors for CVD. Studies in the past have linked this diet with lower risk of CVD but they were conducted on older people with existing health conditions.

"Our study adds more evidence showing the health benefits of a Mediterranean diet, even after adjusting for exercise and body weight," said Stefanos Kales, associate professor in the Department of Environmental Health at HSPH and chief of occupational and environmental medicine at CHA.

A cross sectional study of medical, dietary and lifestyle data was conducted of 780 male firefighters of 18 and older. To assess the adherence to the Mediterranean dietary pattern, a modified Mediterranean diet score (mMDS) was developed.

The researchers revealed that the firefighters who had a greater adherence to the Mediterranean style diet had a 35 percent reduced risk in metabolic syndrome. This syndrome is a cluster of several risk factors that in turn elevates the risk of coronary artery disease, type 2 diabetes, excess fat accumulation around the waistline, and stroke.

The participants with the highest mMDS also had a 43 percent reduced risk of weight gain when compared to the participants with lowest mMDS. On the whole, greater adherence to the Mediterranean diet was linked with higher HDL (good) cholesterol level and lower LDL (bad) cholesterol level.

The researchers suggest that adherence to the Mediterranean diet could have a significant impact on the health of all the young and working population.

"The logical next steps from our investigation are studies using the workplace to specifically promote Mediterranean dietary habits among firefighters and other U.S. workers," said Justin Yang, lead author of the study and a post-doctoral fellow at HSPH.

A study conducted recently by Spanish researchers revealed that a Mediterranean diet when supplemented with extra virgin olive oil or nutsbrings down the risk of developing peripheral artery disease. This healthy diet boosts fertility in women dealing with infertility problems.

The study was published in the journal PLOS One.

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