Mediterranean Diet Linked to Lower Risk of Heart Disease in Young Workers

Feb 05, 2014 07:47 AM EST | By Staff Writer

Want a healthier heart? Then you may want to stick with the Mediterranean diet. It turns out that firefighters who stuck to a Mediterranean-style diet had lower risk factors for cardiovascular disease (CVD). The findings are the first to show that the diet has added benefits among a group of young, working U.S. adults.

What exactly is the Mediterranean diet? It traditionally includes fruits, vegetables and whole grains in addition to fish and seafood a couple of times a week. It emphasizes enjoying poultry, eggs, cheese and yogurt in moderation while saving sweets and red meat for only special occasions.

"Our study adds more evidence showing the health benefits of a Mediterranean diet, even after adjusting for exercise and body weight," said Stefanos Kales, one of the researchers, in a news release.

U.S. firefighters are known to have a high prevalence of obesity and risk factors for CVD. That's why researchers decided to focus on them for this particular study. The scientists analyzed medical and lifestyle data from 780 firefighters, including dietary habits. They then developed a modified Mediterranean diet score to assess the volunteers' dietary patterns and check which individuals adhered to the diet the most.

So what did the researchers find? It turns out that the firefighter group with the strictest adherence to the diet showed a 35 percent decreased risk in metabolic syndrome. In addition, the group also had a 43 percent lower risk of weight gain and had higher HDL (good) cholesterol and lower LDL (bad) cholesterol.

The findings reveal how a Mediterranean diet can truly make the difference among workers. More specifically, it shows how with a simple lifestyle change, people can start living healthier. After all, you are what you eat.

"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, one of the researchers, in a news release.

The findings are published in the journal PLOS One.

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