Spain—It’s time to emphasize all of the olive oil and nut products you have on your shelves. The heart health benefits of these foods, staples of the Mediterranean diet, were on display in a major study published in the New England Journal of Medicine. The Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil or tree nuts was shown to reduce the risk of a major cardiovascular event, including heart attack and stroke, by 30%.

The PREDIMED trial (Prevención con Dieta Mediterránea), begun in 2003 and was conducted by researchers from the University of Barcelona and elsewhere, focused on individuals with a high-risk of cardiovascular disease that were disease-free at the time of enrollment in the study. Subjects were divided into three dietary intervention groups: a Mediterranean diet (characterized by olive oil, legumes, fish, dairy and a lack of meat) supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil, a Mediterranean diet supplemented with nuts (walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts) and a control diet low in vegetable and animal fat. Dieticians visited the subjects every three months, in addition to dietary training sessions that provided information about adhering to the Mediterranean or low-fat diet.

According to the researchers, the fact that significant reductions in cardiovascular risk were found after five years in the two Mediterranean diet groups proves that a high-vegetable fat diet may be better for cardiovascular health than a low-fat diet.

Published in WholeFoods Magazine, April 2013 (online 3/1/13)