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The secret of the Mediterranean diet

School Of Nutrition Posted May 27, 2014 Future Fit Training


A new study may have found the answer to why the Mediterranean diet is associated with a healthy heart.

The secret of the Mediterranean diet

The Mediterranean diet – a diet rich in olive oil, fish, vegetables, fruits, beans and whole grains – has long been associated with improved heart health. Though why this is the case is not fully understood.

A new study partly funded by the British Heart Foundation, which was conducted on mice, examined a type of chemical called nitro fatty acids. The researchers believe that nitro fatty acids could be produced from foods consumed as part of the Mediterranean diet, as chemicals in olive oil and fish could combine with chemicals in vegetables.

In this study, nitro fatty acids were found to block the action of an enzyme called soluble epoxide hydrolase, and this in turn lowered blood pressure. They went on to show that the enzyme was also inhibited when mice were fed components of the Mediterranean diet.

High blood pressure is a major risk factor for cardiovascular diseases such as heart attacks. So the actions of nitro fatty acids may explain why the Mediterranean diet is associated with improved health. However, more work is necessary to determine whether the same processes occur in humans.

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Links to the headlines

Olive oil and salad combined 'explain' Med diet success. BBC News, May 20 2014

The salad that could lower your blood pressure: Tossing lettuce in olive oil with a sprinkling of nuts and avocado boosts heart health. Daily Mail, May 20 2014

Olive oil on salad may save your life. The Daily Telegraph, May 20 2014

Why a Mediterranean diet is good for your health. Daily Express, May 20 2014

Links to the science

Charles RL, Rudyk O, Prysyazhna O, et al. Protection from hypertension in mice by the Mediterranean diet is mediated by nitro fatty acid inhibition of soluble epoxide hydrolase. PNAS. Published online May 19 2014

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