Mediterranean Diet Benefits Heart, Even Without Weight Loss: Study

WEDNESDAY, May 1 (HealthDay News) -- Men at high risk for heart disease might reduce their "bad" cholesterol by eating a heart-healthy Mediterranean diet, even if they don't lose weight, a small new study suggests.

The study included 19 men, aged 24 to 62, with metabolic syndrome, which means they had three or more major risk factors for heart disease and stroke. The risk factors among men in this study included large waist size, high blood pressure, low levels of "good" HDL cholesterol and high triglyceride and fasting glucose levels.

For the first five weeks of the study, the men ate a standard North American diet, which is high in fats, carbohydrates, refined sugar and red meat. For the second five weeks, they ate a Mediterranean diet, which is high in fruits, vegetables and whole grains; low in red meat; and includes olive oil and moderate amounts of wine.

This was followed by a five-month weight-loss program, then another five weeks of a Mediterranean diet.

Regardless of whether they lost weight, the men had a 9 percent decrease in levels of "bad" LDL cholesterol when they ate a Mediterranean diet, according to the study, scheduled for presentation Wednesday at a meeting of the American Heart Association in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

The Mediterranean diet "may be recommended for effective management of the metabolic syndrome and its related risk of cardiovascular disease," said lead study author Caroline Richard, a registered dietitian and doctoral candidate in nutrition at Laval University in Quebec, Canada. The study, however, showed only an association between a Mediterranean diet and lowered cholesterol, not a cause-and-effect relationship.

Data and conclusions presented at meetings typically are considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.

More information

The MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia has more about the Mediterranean diet.

SOURCE: American Heart Association, news release, May 1, 2013