For decades, doctors thought atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) was irreversible. And they believed it always led to heart disease.
These assumptions were (and still are) used to justify highly invasive procedures–such as stents and open-heart surgeries–to open up blood flow. Yet these procedures are extremely expensive and dangerous. And their benefits remain questionable after all these years.
Plus, we now know you can reverse atherosclerosis by changing your diet, reducing stress, and getting social support. (Of course, that new evidence didn’t stop or even slow all the invasive and expensive surgeries. Nor did it stop the deluge of bad advice to cut out dietary fat.)
In fact, a new analysis of the landmark PREDIMED study found that men and women who followed the Mediterranean diet (MED diet) significantly reduced arterial plaque. (The MED diet focuses on eating lots of healthy fruits and vegetables, fish, poultry, eggs, and some healthy red meat.) I’ll tell you more about that new analysis in a moment. But first, let’s back up and recap the highlights of the original PREDIMED findings.
The famed PREDIMED study ran from 2003 and 2011 and it followed 7,447 men and women living in Spain. The participants ranged in age from 55 to 80 years. None of them had cardiovascular disease (CVD). But they all had risk factors for CVD.
The researchers divided the participants into three groups. The first group followed a MED diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil. The second group followed a MED diet supplemented with nuts (walnuts, almonds, and hazelnuts). And the third group followed a low-fat diet.
The MED diet plus olive oil group reduced their heart attack, stroke, or cardiovascular death rate by 30 percent. The MED diet plus nuts group reduced these same outcomes by 28 percent. The low-fat control group didn’t improve at all. The researchers actually stopped using the control group completely, for ethical reasons because they realized the low-fat diet is such a failure and nobody should be kept on it. In fact, the researchers urged the control group to abandon their low-fat diet and replace it with the heart-healthy, Mediterranean diet.
After researchers published these powerful findings in 2013, we had more solid evidence to recommend CVD patients abandon their low-fat diet in favor of the higher-fat MED diet.
But apparently that study wasn’t enough for mainstream medicine.
As you’ll recall, mainstream doctors and scientists just can’t accept the fact that something works. They want to know about its “mechanism of action.” In other words, they want to know how and why it works.
But very often, it’s difficult to prove how and why something works, since ideas about mechanism are always limited by conventional scientific theory. Especially when it comes to nutritional and natural approaches. Which remain all too poorly understood by the mainstream.
All too often, the mainstream uses this situation as an excuse to deny the facts, if they don’t fit with their inapplicable theories.
Fortunately, a new analysis of the PREDIMED study gives the mainstream exactly what it demands…an explanation of how and why the Mediterranean diet works.
In this new analysis, researchers analyzed the thickness of the participants’ carotid arteries using MRI scans. The carotid arteries are two large blood vessels that supply oxygenated blood to your brain. And if your arteries get gunked up with atherosclerotic plaque, or narrowed, you run an increased risk of suffering a stroke.
After they analyzed the participants’ MRIs, the researchers learned that the MED diet only group and the MED diet plus nuts group had less plaque in their carotid arteries. The MED diet plus olive oil group had “delayed progression,” meaning their arterial plaque increased at a slower rate than the low-fat group. By comparison, the low-fat diet group increased their plaque volume.
So, now we know exactly why the MED diet followers experienced fewer CVD events. They had less plaque in their carotid arteries. Plus, the plaque the MED groups did have looked more “stable.” In other words, it appeared less likely to break off and cause a clot or a stroke.
This discovery really isn’t so profound for anyone who has paid any attention to the emerging science over the last decade. We have known for centuries that inflammation causes tissues to swell–including blood vessel walls. We also know that healthy fats reduce inflammation. So it’s not that far of a leap to theorize that healthy fats would reduce arterial inflammation as well. And many doctors who pay attention to the real science believe inflammation (together with high blood pressure) are the real causes of cardiovascular diseases. And that cholesterol has little or nothing to do with it, despite the current obsession by the mainstream government-industrial-medical complex.
Of course, these new findings befuddled researchers when it came to two factors: cholesterol and blood fats (lipids). You see, the MED diet groups still had higher cholesterol and more blood fats, but they had less arterial plaque. The mainstream still blindly clutches to the idea that high cholesterol and blood fats are the two be-all, end-all CVD risk factors. But they simply aren’t, as more science now shows.
The Mediterranean diet works. And we now know at least one reason why it works.
So, if you want to keep your heart healthy without resorting to harmful drugs, eat like the Greeks and the Italians. Make meals filled with lots of green vegetables, fish, lean meats, berries, and nuts. Cook with plenty of olive oil. And, if you wish, enjoy a glass or two of wine with dinner!
1. “Primary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease with a Mediterranean Diet,” New England Journal of Medicine, 2013; 368:1279-1290