A team from the University of Córdoba (UCO) , the Reina Sofía University Hospital and the Maimónides Institute for Biomedical Research (Imibic) has published in the journal Plos Medicine a comparative study of the effect on the endothelium -the walls that cover the arteries- of two different healthy diet models in 1,002 patients who had previously suffered an acute myocardial infarction. The study of the evolution of these patients was carried out over a year.
The research group had previously worked on a similar study with healthy patients, however, this is the first time that it has been done with sick patients, who are more likely to suffer new heart attacks. "The level of endothelial damage predicts the appearance of future cardiovascular events, that is, acute myocardial infarctions. If we can act in the initial phases by promoting endothelial regeneration and better endothelial function, we will be helping to prevent the recurrence of heart attacks and coronary heart diseases ", explained José López Miranda, researcher of the study and coordinator of the research group" Nutrigenomics and Metabolic Syndrome" at IMIBIC and made up of researchers belonging to the Internal Medicine Clinical Management Unit of the Reina Sofía University Hospital.
During the study, half of the patients were recommended to follow a Mediterranean Diet, based on the abundant use of extra virgin olive oil, the daily consumption of fruit and vegetables, a weekly consumption of three servings of legumes, three of fish and three handfuls of nuts a week. In addition, they were advised to cut down on meat, especially red meat, and avoid extra fats like margarine and butter and foods high in sugar.
In contrast, another group received recommendations about a low-fat diet, based on limiting all types of fat, both animal and vegetable, and increasing the intake of complex carbohydrates. They should limit the consumption of red meat, choose low-fat dairy products, avoid nuts and limit the consumption of sweets and cakes.
In the first place, the vasodilation capacity of the patients' arteries was analyzed, which is very important for adaptation to different circumstances, such as exercise or stressful situations. Second, the level of permanent damage to the endothelium was assessed. Finally, the repair capacity of the arteries was measured by endothelial cell progenitors, that is, stem cells.
"We observed that the Mediterranean eating model induces a better endothelial function, that is, the arteries are more flexible to adapt to different situations in which a greater blood flow is required. Furthermore, the regenerative capacity of the endothelium was better and we detected that it was it drastically reduced the damage to the endothelium, even in patients at severe risk", explained Miranda.
Although the Mediterranean Diet, rich in monounsaturated fatty acids, had already been proven as a good strategy to improve endothelial function, as well as for patients with overweight and high cholesterol levels, this is the first time that the benefits of following the Mediterranean diet in patients with coronary heart disease, helping them to reduce the probability of suffering another myocardial infarction.
The study was carried out within the framework of the CVI-7450 project "Nutrigenomic Analysis of the effect of a Mediterranean Diet rich in virgin olive oil on the damage and regenerative capacity of the endothelium and its predictive value of risk", financed by the Conserjería de Economía , Innovation and Science of the Junta de Andalucía.