The popular Mediterranean diet, which emphasizes the consumption of nuts, grains, fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices, and olive oil, and the occasional red wine, has once more proven to be healthy, since it lowers the risk of heart disease in young Americans.

A study was conducted on 780 male firefighters, aged 18 years or older, from 11 different fire departments in the Midwest. The firefighters who participated in the study were made to complete a questionnaire pertaining to their lifestyle and eating habits, and their clinical data that were gathered from previous medical examinations conducted by their respective fire department were also analyzed. Firefighters were chosen for this study because they were prone to obesity and susceptible to cardiovascular disease due to their habit of consuming fast foods and sugary drinks.

The study, conducted by researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health and the Cambridge Health Alliance, revealed that there was a 43 percent decrease in risk of weight gain and a 35 percent decrease in metabolic syndrome in those firefighters who followed a Mediterranean diet. They also had higher levels of good cholesterol and lower levels of bad cholesterol in their bodies. These findings were published in PLOS ONE.

The Mediterranean diet has been around for a long time, yet spiked in popularity only since the 1990s. For Americans, the dietary guidelines under the Mediterranean diet require plant-based food like fruits and vegetables, nuts, legumes, and whole grains as basic. They are consumed with every meal. Fish and seafood are consumed at least twice a week while poultry, eggs, cheese, and yogurt are taken in moderate portions daily or weekly. Meat and sweets are consumed the least.

The diet not so much aims to completely eliminate the consumption of fat as to choose healthier types of fat. Olive oil is also used generously, especially with bread, which is also an important component of the diet.

Drinking wine is encouraged, but only in moderate amounts. Men over 65 and women of all ages are advised to drink no more than 5 ounces or 148 milliliters of wine, preferably red. Men younger than 65 are to take no more than 10 ounces or 296 milliliters of wine.

The diet is patterned after the cooking and eating style of countries in the Mediterranean, populated by people who are known to be generally healthy, live longer, and enjoy greater well-being because they make it a habit to enjoy cooking and eating with family and friends.

"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 Harvard and chief of occupational and environmental medicine at Cambridge.

"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.

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