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After five years of the six-year Spanish study into diets, 288 study participants among the 7,500 older "at-risk" adults suffered a heart attack or stroke or died of a type of cardiovascular disease.
Those on both Mediterranean diets were 28 to 30 per cent less likely to develop such health problems those on the general low-fat diet, researchers from the Universidad de Navarra in Pamplona found.
Of those suffering health problems:
- 96 were in the olive oil-heavy Mediterranean dietary group (3.4% of participants)
- 83 were in the nut-heavy Mediterranean dietary group (3.4% of participants)
- 109 were in the low-fat dietary group (4.4% of participants)
Adopting a Mediterranean diet can stave off the threat of heart disease and strokes among "at-risk" groups by up to 30% compared to low-fat diets, researchers have said.
Their findings, published online by the New England Journal of Medicine, suggest those with diabetes or other heart risks can benefit most from a varied mix of olive oil, nuts, fish and fresh fruit and vegetables.
Spanish researchers tested the continental-style diet against a "control" diet dominated by low-fat dairy products, grains and fruit and vegetables in a five-year study of 7,500 at-risk volunteers.