Only the rich and educated may likely have their cardiovascular risk reduced through the Mediterranean diet, a new study claims.
The surprising results from Italian researchers showed that the benefits of consuming a balance of fruits, nuts, vegetables, and fish were strongly influenced by socioeconomic standing, with no actual gains observed for the less advantaged in life.
The results held up even when both rich and less affluent groups had comparable adherence to the renowned diet.
“[F]or the first time, our study has revealed that the socioeconomic position is able to modulate the health advantages linked to Mediterranean diet,” said study first author Marialaura Bonaccio of the IRCCS Neuromed in a statement.
The study involved over 18,000 participants. A two-point rise in the subjects’ Mediterranean diet score translated to a 15 percent decline in cardiovascular illness risk, reported CTV News.
Discrepancies were however present: there was 57 percent lower risk among people with post-secondary education, and a 61 percent drop for those in the highest household income category. The same link wasn’t observed in the less wealthy and less educated.
How could then this be possible?
People with higher income or greater educational attainment, for instance, ate food that were richer in antioxidants and polyphenols, as well as enjoyed a wider range of fruits and vegetables. Quality of food may then be as crucial for health as quantity and frequency of intake are, explained researcher Licia Iacoviello.
It was also possible for the less affluent ones to tend to buy “Mediterranean” food that had lower nutritional value.
The findings have been detailed in the International Journal of Epidemiology.
Italians Are The World’s Healthiest
In the recent Global Health Index results, Italians emerged as the world’s healthiest people, according to Bloomberg. Their secret to wellness and longevity: their nutritional approach — the Mediterranean diet that featured cheese, lean meat, and wine that let them live well into their 80s.
Their high intake of fresh vegetables and fruits, as well as the abundance of olive oil in their diet, also accounted for robust health and low mortality.
A separate study earlier this year also associated a Mediterranean diet with reduced brain shrinkage due to aging, potentially protecting the elderly from suffering cognitive loss.
The diet has been consistently tied to cardiovascular benefits such as reduced rates of heart attack, stroke, and premature death, as well as improved conditions such as hypertension, cholesterol status, and metabolic issues.