- THE NEW YORK TIMES – In the 1950s, researchers from across the globe embarked on a sweeping and ambitious study.
For decades, they scrutinized the diets and lifestyles of thousands of middle-aged men living in the United States, Europe and Japan and then examined how those characteristics affected their risks of developing cardiovascular disease.
The Seven Countries Study, as it later became known, famously found associations between saturated fats, cholesterol levels and coronary heart disease. But the researchers also reported another notable result:
Those who lived in and around the Mediterranean — in countries like Italy, Greece and Croatia — had lower rates of cardiovascular disease than participants who lived elsewhere.
Their diets, rich in fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts, seeds, lean proteins and healthy fats, seemed to have a protective effect.
“It isn’t a diet that was cooked up in the mind of some person to generate money. It’s something that was developed over time, by millions of people, because it actually tastes good. And it just happens to be healthy.”
Since then, the Mediterranean diet has become the bedrock of heart-healthy eating, with well-studied health benefits including lower blood pressure and cholesterol, and a reduced risk of Type 2 diabetes.
“It’s one of a small number of diets that has research to back it up,” said Dr. Sean Heffron, a preventive cardiologist at NYU Langone Health.
Here are some of the most searched questions about the Mediterranean diet, answered by experts.
The Mediterranean diet isn’t as much a strict meal plan as it is a lifestyle, said Julia Zumpano, a registered dietitian who specializes in preventive cardiology at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio.
People who follow the Mediterranean diet tend to “eat foods their grandparents would recognize,” Dr. Heffron added: whole, unprocessed foods with few or no additives …