Closely following the Mediterranean diet can significantly lower your risk of heart disease, another study suggests.
The study included more than 2,500 Greek adults, aged 18 to 89, whose diets and health were tracked for 10 years. Nearly 20 percent of men and 12 percent of women in the study developed or died from heart disease.
People who most closely followed a Mediterranean diet were 47 percent less likely to develop heart disease than those who did not closely follow the diet. The researchers also found that sticking to a Mediterranean diet was more protective against heart disease than physical activity.
"Our study shows that the Mediterranean diet is a beneficial intervention for all types of people -- in both genders, in all age groups, and in both healthy people and those with health conditions," study co-author Ekavi Georgousopoulou, a Ph.D. candidate at Harokopio University in Athens, said in a news release from the American College of Cardiology.
"It also reveals that the Mediterranean diet has direct benefits for heart health, in addition to its indirect benefits in managing diabetes, hypertension [high blood pressure] and inflammation," the researcher added.
The study is to be presented March 15 at the American College of Cardiology annual meeting in San Diego. Research presented at meetings should be considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.
Previous studies have shown that a Mediterranean diet -- which is high in fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, fish, and olive oil -- is associated with weight loss, lower blood pressure and blood cholesterol levels, and a lower risk of diabetes and heart disease.
"Because the Mediterranean diet is based on food groups that are quite common or easy to find, people around the world could easily adopt this dietary pattern and help protect themselves against heart disease with very little cost," Georgousopoulou said.
While the study found an association between following the Mediterranean diet and a lower risk of heart disease, a cause-and-effect link was not proven.