Study: Mediterranean Diet High in Olive Oil, Nuts May Help Leg Arteries

I’m amazed about the positive news continuing to flow out about the health benefits of a Mediterranean diet. The latest: New research suggests people who stick to a Mediterranean diet high in extra virgin olive oil or nuts may reduce their likelihood of developing clogged leg arteries. Peripheral Arterial Disease

The analysis builds on the same study which last year suggested a Mediterranean diet – particularly one rich with extra virgin olive oil and nuts – lowers the risk of stroke and other heart problems by 30 percent among high-risk individuals. The latest findings appear in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

In addition to olive oil and nuts, the traditional Mediterranean diet is heavy on vegetables, fruit, fish, legumes and whole grains.

“Now we have this very strong reduction in the risk of peripheral artery disease,” Dr. Miguel Martínez-González, from the University of Navarra in Pamplona, told Reuters Health. “This is very reassuring.”

Peripheral artery disease, or PAD, develops when your arteries become clogged with fatty deposits that limit blood flow to your legs. PAD affects 8 million to 12 million people in the United States, especially those over 50, according to the U.S. National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.

Courtesy of Oldways
Courtesy of Oldways

Just like clogged arteries in the heart, clogged arteries in the legs mean you’re at risk for having a heart attack or stroke, according to the federal agency. It added that people who experience symptoms – including pain or cramping in the legs – often don’t report them, believing they’re a natural part of aging or due to another cause.

In the new analysis, researchers tracked 7,477 older Spanish men and women who were instructed to follow one of three diets: a Mediterranean diet with additional extra virgin olive oil; a Mediterranean diet with extra nuts; or a low-fat diet. The participants – ranging in age from 55 to 80 – were healthy at the time but considered at high risk of heart disease.

According to Reuters Health, researchers found that the Mediterranean diet with extra olive oil lowered people’s risk of peripheral artery disease by 64 percent, while the one with extra nuts cut the risk in half. In particular, the people following the Mediterranean diets had less buildup of fatty deposits in their arteries versus those on the low-fat diet.

Martínez-González also told Reuters Health it makes sense that if a Mediterranean diet can lower the risk of heart attack and stroke, it can influence other diseases tied to clogged arteries – perhaps by reducing inflammation and improving cholesterol numbers.

“From a biological, mechanistic point of view, the underlying disease process for peripheral artery disease is exactly the same as for stroke or (heart attack). It is atherosclerosis, or disease of the arteries,” he told the news agency.

California Olive Ranch Master Miller Bob Singletary