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Mediterranean diet may help reduce health risks

Extra virgin olive oil can help reduce the risk of heart disease in those at high risk, according to research in the open access journal BMC Medicine. A second article in BMC Medicine from the same group, suggests that polyphenols found in red wine and seeds are associated with an overall lower mortality risk.

The research will be presented at the 2nd World Forum for Nutrition Research, hosted by the Dietitians Association of Australia in Brisbane on 14 May by Marta Guasch-Ferré, one of the PREDIMED investigators at the Rovira i Virgili University in Reus, Spain.

Many studies have looked into association between olive oil consumption and risk of heart disease. But very little has focused on the different types of olive oil. Research conducted as part of the PREDIMED trial has found that a 10g per day increase in extra virgin olive oil consumption is linked with a 10% reduction in risk of heart disease and cardiovascular death. Extra virgin olive oil is a higher quality than common olive oil, has slightly higher acidity and higher amount of polyphenols. It is thought these polyphenols provide cardiovascular benefits.

The corresponding author of the olive oil paper, Jordi Salas-Salvadó (director of the human nutrition unit in the Rovira I Virgili University and from CIBEROBN), says: “Although it is difficult to isolate the effect of a single food because a range of foods are consumed in the whole Mediterranean diet, our study was able to distinguish the cardiovascular effects attributed to olive oil, a food that it is clearly a key component of this diet.”

The results are complemented by a second paper by the same group who reanalyzed the results of the PREDIMED trial. The results of this reanalysis found that those with a high total phenol intake had a significant reduction in mortality, not just cardiovascular disease as in the olive oil study. It was also found that certain polyphenols are strongly associated with mortality protective effects, specifically stilbenes and lignans. Stilbenes are found in grape skins and concentrated in red wine, and olives, virgin olive oil, flax seed, sesame seed, and whole grains contain high levels of lignans.

Rosa M Lamuela-Raventos (director of the polyphenol research group of the Barcelona University and from the CIBEROBN), the corresponding author of the polyphenols paper, says: “In many of these previously studied populations, intake of any one polyphenol-rich food was not great enough to reduce mortality, but in our study total polyphenol intake was a wider range, coming from several food sources. Evidence from our study and previous studies support the hypothesis that greater polyphenol intake, and the many polyphenol subclasses this represents, serves to extend the life span through many different factors.”

PREDIMED was a multicenter nutrition intervention study that looked at the effect of the Mediterranean diet on the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease in more than 7000 older people aged 55 to 80 years old over a median of five years. Participants were randomized in three groups - a Mediterranean Diet supplemented with extra virgin olive oil, a Mediterranean Diet supplemented with nuts, and a control group following a low fat diet.

Jordi Salas-Salvadó says: “The PREDIMED trial was carried out in an elderly population at high cardiovascular risk, further work needs to be done to see if the benefits of a Mediterranean diet can be generalized to other populations.”


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Notes to Editor

1. Research article
Olive oil intake and risk of cardiovascular disease and mortality in the PREDIMED Study
Marta Guasch-Ferré, Frank B Hu, Miguel A Martínez-González, Montserrat Fitó, Mònica Bulló, Ramon Estruch, Emilio Ros, Dolores Corella, Javier Recondo, Enrique Gómez-Gracia, Miquel Fiol, José Lapetra, Lluís Serra-Majem, Miguel A Muñoz, Xavier Pintó, Rosa M Lamuela-Raventós, Josep Basora, Pilar Buil-Cosiales, José V Sorlí, Valentina Ruiz-Gutiérrez, Alfredo Martínez and Jordi Salas-Salvadó
BMC Medicine 2014, 12:78

Article available at journal website here.

Research article
Polyphenol intake and mortality risk: a re-analysis of the PREDIMED trial
Anna Tresserra-Rimbau, Eric B Rimm, Alexander Medina-Remón, Miguel A Martínez-González, M Carmen López-Sabater, María I Covas, Dolores Corella, Jordi Salas-Salvadó, Enrique Gómez-Gracia, José Lapetra, Fernando Arós, Miquel Fiol, Emili Ros, Lluis Serra-Majem, Xavier Pintó, Miguel A Muñoz, Alfredo Gea, Valentina Ruiz-Gutiérrez, Ramón Estruch and Rosa M Lamuela-Raventós
BMC Medicine 2014, 12:77

Article available at journal website here.

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2. The Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA) National Conference and 2nd World Forum for Nutrition Research is being held from 14-17 May at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre. For more information and program details, visit: If you are attending the conference and wish to arrange an interview with Marta Guasch-Ferré, please contact Emma Jones from DAA on +61 (0)409 661 920.

3. BMC Medicine is the flagship medical journal of the BMC series, publishing original research, commentaries and reviews that are either of significant interest to all areas of medicine and clinical practice, or provide key translational or clinical advances in a specific field.

4. BioMed Central is an STM (Science, Technology and Medicine) publisher which has pioneered the open access publishing model. All peer-reviewed research articles published by BioMed Central are made immediately and freely accessible online, and are licensed to allow redistribution and reuse. BioMed Central is part of Springer Science+Business Media, a leading global publisher in the STM sector.