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Only rich and educated people reduce heart disease risk with Mediterranean diet, researchers claim

Study reveals socio-economic position affects health advantages linked to choice of food 

John von Radowitz
Tuesday 01 August 2017 01:21 BST
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Eating a Mediterranean diet could cut your risk of heart disease by 47%
Eating a Mediterranean diet could cut your risk of heart disease by 47% (Rex )

Only rich and educated people reduce their risk of heart disease by adopting a Mediterranean diet, researchers claim.

Surprising results from the Italian study suggest that eating a healthy mix of fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans and fish while cutting down on red meat offers no benefit to the less advantaged.

This was true even when both groups, rich and less well off, showed comparable adherence to the diet.

Lead researcher Dr Marialaura Bonaccio, from the Mediterranean Neurological Institute in Pozzilli, said: "The cardiovascular benefits associated with the Mediterranean diet in a general population are well known. Yet, for the first time, our study has revealed that the socio-economic position is able to modulate the health advantages linked to Mediterranean diet."

The study, reported in the International Journal of Epidemiology, involved more than 18,000 participants from the Molise region of Italy.

Detailed analysis indicated that people at the top of society were likely to consume healthier versions of the Mediterranean diet richer in antioxidants and polyphenol plant compounds. They also had access to a greater range of fruits and vegetables.

Co-author Dr Licia Lacoviello, also from the Mediterranean Neurological Institute, said: "These substantial differences in consuming products belonging to Mediterranean diet lead us to think that quality of foods may be as important for health as quantity and frequency of intake."

Dr Tim Chico, reader in cardiovascular medicine at the University of Sheffield, said: "This study confirms a well-known but depressing fact; people of lower education or income have almost double the risk of heart disease compared with those who are better off.

"Although the authors of this study suggest that the Mediterranean diet may be less effective in reducing heart disease in less well-off people, this is likely to be due to other differences between low and high income groups, rather than the diet not being effective.

"The authors suggest that there are some elements of the Mediterranean diet that are eaten more often by high rather than low-income groups, but there are other possible explanations for these findings.

"These findings should not put anyone off a Mediterranean diet; this is still the best option for reducing risk of heart disease."

Press Association

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