ScienceShot: A Recipe for Good Health

Kai is a contributing correspondent for Science magazine based in Berlin, Germany.

Olive oil and nuts aren't just ingredients for a nice pesto; they also make for a healthy diet, according to the first large, randomized trial investigating the protective effect of the Mediterranean diet in people who had no prior cardiovascular disease. In the Spanish PREDIMED trial, 7447 people with cardiovascular risk factors such as type 2 diabetes, smoking, or obesity were divided into three groups: a control group advised to eat a low-fat diet and two groups advised to eat a Mediterranean diet including fish, legumes, and wine. Participants on a Mediterranean diet also received either olive oil (about 1 liter per week) or nuts (30 g per day) for free. After roughly 4 years, those on a Mediterranean diet were 30% less likely to have suffered a stroke or heart attack or to have died from cardiovascular causes than those on a low-fat diet, the authors report today in The New England Journal of Medicine. While the idea was to change the overall pattern of the participants' diet, the researchers chalk the major health difference up to the extra olive oil and nuts that participants in the Mediterranean diet groups consumed. These were probably responsible for most of the protective effect, the authors write.

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