Mediterranean diet is better than cholesterol-lowering drugs like statins for heart patients, suggests a latest study.

A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts and fish is observed to cut down the risk of early death in heart patients by 37 percent. Earlier studies have shown that statins reduce the risk of mortality by 18 percent.

"So far research has focused on the general population, which is mainly composed of healthy people," said Prof. Giovanni de Gaetano at a global conference on heart disease in Rome. "What happens to people who have already suffered from cardiovascular disease? Is the Mediterranean diet optimal for them too?"

For the purpose of the study, the researchers observed 1,200 patients with a history of heart attack, stroke and blocked arteries for a period of seven years. About 208 deaths were recorded through the period, and mortality rate was found to be less among patients who followed a Mediterranean-style diet.

Gaetano explained at the conference that the Mediterranean diet is known to be one of the healthiest diet habits worldwide. It is also found to reduce the risk of chronic diseases as well as mortality associated with a number of other diseases and conditions.

Gaetano insisted that doctors need to recommend healthy diets consisting of fruits and vegetables for patients prior to prescribing them drugs. He also added that the National Health Service (NHS) should consider subsidizing foods that constitute Mediterranean diet.

The heart expert added that even patients who need to take statins can benefit by following the above diet. He noted that following the diet could help patients achieve the benefits of statins with little to no side effects.

Prof. Jeremy Pearson, Associate Medical Director of the British Heart Foundation, said that it is interesting to know that people suffering from heart disease can benefit by following a Mediterranean-style diet regimen. People already taking medication can reduce their risk of death by adhering to the nutrition-rich diet habit.

Meanwhile, British cardiologist Aseem Malhotra said that the study results are encouraging, and it is proven that following a Mediterranean diet reduces mortality rate in heart patients more effectively than drugs.

Malhotra added that the goodness of the diet comes from the anti-inflammatory effects of nuts, vegetables, olive oil and fish. Diets rich in fruits, vegetables and nuts reduce the risk of death in patients with cardiovascular diseases without any side effects, unlike cholesterol-lowering drugs.

Photo: U.S. Department of Agriculture | Flickr 

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