Another Study Says Mediterranean Diet Good for the Heart
So why does the Mediterranean diet seem to boost heart health? Martinez-Gonzalez said it's probably the combination of good-quality fats -- both monounsaturated like olive oil and polyunsaturated like vegetable oils -- and the wide range of other nutrients.
The findings came as no surprise to two U.S. experts.
"I think this is demonstrating again, conclusively, that this is the diet to go on to prevent heart disease," said Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, director of women and heart disease at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, and a spokeswoman for the American Heart Association's Go Red for Women campaign.
The 30 percent reduction in relative risk, she said, is ''significant."
Alice Lichtenstein, the Stanley Gershoff Professor of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University in Boston, said the new findings are "confirming what we have been saying all along." The findings are strong, she said, due to the number of people studied and the length of the follow-up.
"Essentially, they confirmed what the current recommendations from the American Heart Association and the U.S. Dietary Guidelines are saying," added Lichtenstein, who's also a spokeswoman for the American Heart Association.
However, she said, ''the results of this study do not provide a license to start snacking on nuts or adding nuts to salads and yogurt without taking something out of the diet that has an equivalent number of calories. The same goes for olive oil."
Steinbaum added: "Every time you use butter, just use olive oil instead. Instead of snacking on popcorn, have some nuts."
The California Walnut Commission is a sponsor of the Congress. One study researcher is on the commission's board. Another has received grants from the International Nut and Dried Fruit Council. The Spanish government funded the research.
To learn more about the Mediterranean diet, visit the American Heart Association.