People who know about the Mediterranean diet and its heart health benefits are more likely to follow it, meaning nutritional education is key.
Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death in the United States, with a direct economic impact of $272.5 billion a year. It accounts for 17 percent of the overall national spend on healthcare. Lifestyle is a risk factor, and multiple studies have shown that following a Mediterranean diet can help prevent CVD and cardiac events.
One paper compared people on a Mediterranean diet to a group following a reduced-fat diet. It found that those in the Mediterranean group were 30 percent less likely to experience a major cardiac event. It consists mainly of poultry, fish, legumes, fruits, vegetables, nuts and whole grains. Red meat, processed foods and salt are consumed in much lower quantities than in average eating patterns.
A total of 337 patients at a metropolitan outpatient cardiology clinic in Oklahoma were included in the study. They were asked about their knowledge of the Mediterranean diet, before being separated into low–, medium– and high-adherence to the diet groups. This was based on their daily consumption of fruits, vegetables, fish, whole grains, and nuts.
Less than one-third of the people surveyed were aware of the Mediterranean diet. People with a college education were 6.7 times more likely than those with only a high school education to be in the “high-adherence” group. Women were four times more likely than men to have a strong adherence to the diet. Overall, people who were aware of the diet were 3.2 times more likely to follow it than those who were not.
The team behind the study, which is published in The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, say it’s concerning that less than one-third of the people surveyed are aware of the diet. The findings highlight the importance of patient education, says researcher Benjamin Greiner, OMS III, MPH, researcher and medical student at Oklahoma State University College of Osteopathic Medicine.
“Finding ways to introduce patients to the Mediterranean diet and guide them through the behavior change process should be a priority for physicians,” he adds.
The paper suggests that placing interdisciplinary teams, including nutritionists, at physician practices could help educate patients. “The good news is this is not an expensive or complicated diet, so patients with limited resources should be able to follow it and significantly improve their health,” Greiner notes. “While physicians can’t change the level of formal education their patients achieve, they can provide crucial information that helps them live longer and healthier.”
Greiner, B., Wheeler, D., Croff, J., & Miller, B. (2019). Prior Knowledge of the Mediterranean Diet Is Associated with Dietary Adherence in Cardiac Patients. The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, 119(3), 183-188 (abstract only). Retrieved from https://jaoa.org/article.aspx?articleid=2726851
- Researchers say education a major barrier to following heart healthy diet. (2019, March 11). Retrieved from https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2019-03/aoa-rse031119.php