Mediterranean Diet Post 5: Does The Modern Mediterranean Diet Prevent Heart Disease?

None of today’s Mediterranean diets restrict olive oil or advise to follow a near-vegan diet for more than half of the year. Yet it was this autere and more authentic Mediterranean diet that was responsible for long life and low rates of chronic disease. How did it come to pass that the modern Mediterranean diet is flush with oil, alcohol, and animal food?

Here’s the PREDIMED study that started it all.

Primary Prevention Of Cardiovascular Disease With A Mediterranean Diet, New England Journal of Medicine, 25 February 2013

There were 3 groups, about 2500 people in each group. One group ate the so-called Mediterranean diet plus a liter of olive oil a week. Another ate the diet plus 30 grams of nuts a day. The last group was a “low-fat” control group which failed to eat low-fat (was eating 37% of calories from fat).

A Mediterranean diet with olive oil or nuts prevents heart disease, right? Yet in this study, 179 people assigned to eat the Mediterranean diet (96 in oil group, 83 in nut group) experienced a “major cardiovascular event” in the ~ 4.8 years of the study. According to the authors, all 179 had “no cardiovascular disease at enrollment.”

Imagine having no cardiovascular disease, being put on a special diet that was designed specifically to prevent cardiovascular disease, and experiencing a “major cardiovascular event” less than 4.8 years later. These are pure numbers but I want to compare them to what Dr. Esselstyn did. He took people with advanced coronary artery disease, put them on a low-fat, plant-based diet, and 12 years later they had no more cardiac events! Why isn’t a low-fat, plant-based diet preferred over a Mediterranean diet?

Also, there was no difference among the groups for “death from any cause.” (There were 118 in the oil group, 116 in the nut group, and 114 in the control group who died “from any cause.”) The Mediterranean diet didn’t keep people from dying any more than the control group.

By the way, PREDIMED was sponsored by oil and nut groups.

I covered the study back in 2013: Is The Mediterranean Diet Really All That?

4 thoughts on “Mediterranean Diet Post 5: Does The Modern Mediterranean Diet Prevent Heart Disease?

  1. mboydp

    THANK you for this! It’s what I’ve been thinking through your whole line-up of essays on the Mediterranean diet! I.e., that what’s called “Mediterranean diet” in the US today is NOT the Ur-Mediterranean diet, by any stretch of the imagination!


    1. Bix Post author

      A liter of olive oil a week! Nothing about that speaks moderation. I can’t imagine the people in Greece in the 1940s-50s were consuming that much, or much of anything.


  2. Pingback: Mediterranean Diet Posts | Fanatic Cook

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