Greater adherence to a Mediterranean diet may be linked to lower risk factors for cardiovascular disease, according to a study led by researchers from Harvard School of Public Health and Cambridge Health Alliance.
The researchers analysed medical and lifestyle data, including dietary habits, from a cohort of 780 career male firefighters aged 18 and over from the American Mid-West. U.S. firefighters are known to have a high prevalence of obesity and risk factors for cardiovascular disease. A diet rich in fish, nuts, vegetables, and fruits, has been shown in previous studies to lower these risk factors.
In this study published in PLOS ONE, a modified Mediterranean diet score (mMDS) was developed for assessment of adherence to a Mediterranean dietary pattern from a previously administered life-style questionnaire that examined pre-existing dietary habits. Clinical data from fire department medical examinations were extracted and analysed. The firefighter group with greatest adherence to Mediterranean-style diet showed a 35% decreased risk in metabolic syndrome, a condition with risk factors that include a large waistline, high triglyceride level, low HDL (“good”) cholesterol level, high blood pressure, and high blood sugar. The group with the highest mMDS also had a 43% lower risk of weight gain compared with the lowest mMDS group. Additionally, greater adherence to a Mediterranean-style diet was significantly associated with higher HDL cholesterol and lower ‘LDL’ (“bad”) cholesterol. Consistent with previous investigations, obese participants in the firefighter study reported a higher intake of both fast foods and sugary drinks.
The results support the potential effectiveness of a Mediterranean-style diet in young, non-Mediterranean working cohorts, and justify future intervention studies.