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

Even without kids, couples eat frequent family meals

48 minutes ago

Couples and other adult family members living without minors in the house are just as likely as adults living with young children or adolescents to eat family meals at home on most days of the week, new research suggests.

Health law enrollment now 7.3M

14 hours ago

The Obama administration says 7.3 million people have signed up for subsidized private health insurance under the health care law—down from 8 million reported earlier this year.

ASTRO issues second list of 'Choosing wisely' guidelines

14 hours ago

(HealthDay)—The American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO) has released a second list of five radiation oncology-specific treatments that should be discussed before being prescribed, as part of the ...

Bill Gates says progress made on new super-thin condom

15 hours ago

Billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates said Thursday progress is being made on developing a "next-generation" ultra-thin, skin-like condom that could offer better sexual pleasure, help population control and ...

User comments