Mediterranean diet linked with lower risk of heart disease among young US workers

Among a large group of Midwestern firefighters, greater adherence to Mediterranean-style diet was associated with lower risk factors for cardiovascular disease (CVD), according to a new study led by researchers from Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) and Cambridge Health Alliance (CHA). The study is the first to assess the effects of Mediterranean-style diet among a group of young, working U.S. adults.

The study will appear online in PLOS ONE on February 4, 2014.

"Our study adds more evidence showing the health benefits of a Mediterranean diet, even after adjusting for exercise and body weight," said Stefanos Kales, associate professor in the Department of Environmental Health at HSPH and chief of occupational and environmental medicine at CHA.

U.S. firefighters are known to have a high prevalence of obesity and for CVD. A Mediterranean diet, rich in fish, nuts, vegetables, and fruits, has been shown in previous studies to lower risk of CVD. However, those studies have primarily been conducted among older people, those with existing health conditions, and among Mediterranean populations.

The researchers analyzed medical and lifestyle data, including dietary habits, from an existing cohort of 780 male firefighters in the Midwest. They developed a modified Mediterranean diet score (mMDS) to assess the participants' dietary patterns.

The firefighter group with greatest adherence to Mediterranean-style diet showed a 35% decreased risk in metabolic syndrome, a condition with risk factors that include a large waistline, high triglyceride level, low HDL ("good") cholesterol level, high blood pressure, and high blood sugar. The group with the highest mMDS also had a 43% lower risk of weight gain compared with the lowest mMDS group. Additionally, greater adherence to a Mediterranean-style was significantly associated with higher HDL cholesterol and lower LDL ("bad") cholesterol. Consistent with previous investigations, obese participants in the firefighter study reported a higher intake of both fast foods and sugary drinks.

The study shows that promoting Mediterranean-style diets could have significant benefits for young, working populations. "The logical next steps from our investigation are studies using the workplace to specifically promote Mediterranean dietary habits among firefighters and other U.S. workers," said Justin Yang, lead author of the study and a post-doctoral fellow at HSPH.

More information: "Modified Mediterranean diet score and cardiovascular risk in a North American working population," Justin Yang, Andrea Farioli, Maria Korre, Stefanos N. Kales, PLOS ONE, February 4, 2014. dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0087539

Related Stories

Mediterranean diet alone may lower diabetes risk

Jan 06, 2014

(HealthDay)—Adults at risk for heart disease who eat a Mediterranean diet rich in olive oil can lower their chances of developing diabetes, even without restricting calories or boosting exercise, new research ...

Recommended for you

AMA examines economic impact of physicians

5 hours ago

(HealthDay)—Physicians who mainly engage in patient care contribute a total of $1.6 trillion in economic output, according to the American Medical Association (AMA)'s Economic Impact Study.

Less-schooled whites lose longevity, study finds

5 hours ago

Barbara Gentry slowly shifts her heavy frame out of a chair and uses a walker to move the dozen feet to a chair not far from the pool table at the Buford Senior Center. Her hair is white and a cough sometimes interrupts her ...

How to keep your fitness goals on track

6 hours ago

(HealthDay)—The New Year's resolutions many made to get fit have stalled by now. And one expert thinks that's because many people set their goals too high.

Suddenly health insurance is not for sale

Apr 18, 2014

(HealthDay)— Darlene Tucker, an independent insurance broker in Scotts Hill, Tenn., says health insurers in her area aren't selling policies year-round anymore.

User comments