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    This Diet May Lower Risk of Clogged Leg Arteries

    Study of older adults found reduced odds of peripheral artery disease when compared to low-fat diet


    To rigorously test that idea, Martinez-Gonzalez and his colleagues recruited nearly 7,500 adults aged 55 to 80 who were at increased risk of developing clogged arteries -- because they had either diabetes or multiple other risk factors, like obesity or smoking.

    The researchers randomly assigned the men and women into three groups. One group was told to follow a low-fat diet, while the other two received counseling from a dietitian on Mediterranean-style eating. Along with the advice, one group was given a weekly supply of extra-virgin olive oil and was told to use at least four tablespoons a day. The other group received a regular supply of mixed nuts (walnuts, almonds and hazelnuts), and was told to toss back an ounce each day.

    Over five years, 89 participants developed painful peripheral artery disease. But it turned out that the odds varied by diet.

    In the low-fat group, people developed peripheral artery disease at a rate of almost 0.5 percent per year. That rate was halved in the Mediterranean group that ate mixed nuts, and was lower still in the olive-oil group -- at just 0.15 percent.

    There are caveats, according to Martinez-Gonzalez's team -- one being the fairly small number of peripheral artery disease cases in the study. And one of the researchers is a consultant to the International Nut Council, an industry group.

    But an expert not involved in the study agreed that it adds to the list of reasons to adopt a Mediterranean diet.

    The original trial showed that, whether you favor nuts or olive oil, the diet can curb the risk of heart attack and stroke, said Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, director of the Women and Heart Disease program at Lenox Hill Hospital, in New York City.

    "Now we can recommend the Mediterranean diet as a preventive strategy for all disease of the cardiovascular system, including heart attacks, strokes and peripheral artery disease," Steinbaum said.

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