Is This Diet Better Than Medications for Heart Disease?

Could diet work better than medications for preventing the progression of heart disease? New research suggests that eating a Mediterranean diet could slow or even reverse the progression of heart disease even better than taking prescription medications. Plus it has other health benefits as well.

Mediterranean Diet and Heart Disease

The Mediterranean diet is one of the healthiest diets in the world. It’s a diet that emphasizes fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grain foods, nuts, fish as well as modest amounts of red wine while de-emphasizing dairy and red meat.

People on a Mediterranean diet enjoy moderate amounts of olive oil, which a source of healthy monounsaturated fats. They eat few processed foods or foods high in sugar. Their snack of choice is more likely to be a handful of nuts or a piece of fruit than a sugary pastry.

Some doctors already recommend a Mediterranean-style diet to patients at risk for heart disease, but now there’s even more reason to give the thumbs up to eating a Mediterranean diet.

The Heart Health Benefits of the Mediterranean Diet

Researchers at the University of Navarra in Spain looked at the effects of a Mediterranean diet on heart disease progression. For the study, they recruited people who had moderately thickened arterial walls due to early heart disease.

They assigned the participants to one of three groups. One group ate a Mediterranean diet that included 30 grams of nuts a day. A second group also ate a Mediterranean diet supplemented with 15 liters of virgin olive oil daily. A third group ate a low-fat diet.

When they measured the thickness of their arterial walls at the end of the study, they discovered that the participants who had eaten a Mediterranean diet with added virgin olive oil or nuts had less thickening of their arterial walls. In fact, the researchers pointed out that the regression noted in the participants eating a Mediterranean diet was greater than what would typically be seen with medications. They also showed improvements in their lipid profiles.

Olive oil and nuts are rich in monounsaturated fats. These fats are “good fats” because they lower LDL cholesterol levels and have other favorable effects on blood lipids. The Mediterranean diet is also rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds that further contribute to heart health. Arteries become thickened as a result of chronic, low-grade inflammation, and a Mediterranean diet helps to offset this. Eating a Mediterranean diet is a natural, drug-free way to lower the risk of heart disease and heart attacks.

The Bottom Line?

Eating a Mediterranean diet has lots of health benefits, and it could slow down the progression of heart disease or even reverse it. It’s a diet that offers an abundance of healthy, unprocessed foods that can improve the health of your heart and help you live longer. Talk to your doctor about the health benefits of this amazing diet, and see if it’s right for you.


Atherosclerosis. Volume 218, Issue 1. September 2011.

Nutra-ingredients-USA. “Olive Oil, Nuts Better Than Drugs for Heart Disease”

Arch Intern Med. 2000 Apr 24;160(8):1154-8.

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