A Mediterranean diet plus a daily serving of nuts may lower stomach fat and blood pressure in older adults at risk for heart disease, a Spanish study found.
The prevalence of patients who had metabolic syndrome, which includes a large waistline, high cholesterol and high blood pressure, decreased almost 14 percent after a year among those on the Mediterranean diet -- which is rich in fish and healthy fats -- plus mixed nuts. That compares with a 2 percent drop in those on a low-fat diet, according to research released today in theArchives of Internal Medicine.
Nuts contain nutrients that may affect insulin resistance, blood pressure and blood fats such as cholesterol. Studies have shown that eating nuts may protect against heart disease, the researchers said. A July report in the New England Journal of Medicine found that overweight people lost more pounds on a Mediterranean diet than did those on a diet low in fat.
“There are enough scientific evidences to recommend the Med diet over the low-fat diet for health outcomes,” said Emilio Ros, a doctor in endocrinology and nutrition service at the Hospital Clinic Barcelona, and an author of the study, in a e-mail on Dec. 5. “This study adds another piece of evidence to the abundant literature on the subject.”
A Mediterranean diet includes olive oil and oily fish such as salmon, and little red meat. The low-fat diet is rich in carbohydrates and low-fat dairy foods. Both diets encourage fruits and vegetables. Nuts are rich in fiber, potassium, the amino acid arginine, calcium and magnesium.
Metabolic syndrome is characterized by a large waistline, higher-than-normal levels of triglycerides, a type of fat found in the blood; lower than normal HDL, so-called good cholesterol; high blood pressure; and high blood sugar. The condition increases the risk of heart disease, diabetes and stroke, according to the National Institutes of Health. The syndrome is diagnosed when a person has at least three of the symptoms, according to the NIH.