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Friday, 8 November, 2002, 00:05 GMT
Mediterranean diet could help Asians
Fruit is a good source of healthy compounds
People of Asian origin could reduce their heightened risk of cardiovascular disease by adopting a Mediterranean-style diet, say researchers.

Coronary artery disease (CAD) is a major public health problem for people of south Asian origin who are living in developed countries.

They appear to be more at risk than people from other racial groups.

The results are as good as drug treatment

Dr Elliot Berry
However, this increased risk is not explained by conventional factors such as high blood pressure or raised cholesterol levels.

The American Heart Association (AHA) has highlighted the health benefits of a Mediterranean-style diet because it is rich in a compound called alpha-linolenic acid.

Researchers put the theory to the test in a trial involving 1,000 patients with a history of CAD-related conditions such as angina and heart attack.

Half were allocated to a diet containing whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and nuts, all of which are rich in alpha-linolenic acid.

The other half were given a conventional Asian diet.

Enhanced diet

After two years, the number of serious heart problems among the group who were given the enhanced diet was almost half that of the control group.

The research was a combined effort by an Indian team led by Professor RB Singh and Israeli investigators led by Professor Elliot Berry, from the Hebrew University Hadassah Medical School in Jerusalem.

They said: "Our trial in a non-Western population has shown that, over two years, a diet enriched with fruit, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, and mustard or soy bean oil is associated with a pronounced decline in CAD morbidity and mortality, without an increase in non-cardiac deaths.

"The results are as good as drug treatment. The long-term benefits may be even more substantial."

Many beneficial effects

Alpha-linolenic acid helps to regulate blood pressure, heart rate, the dilation of the blood vessels and plays a role in the breakdown of fats.

Belinda Linden, head of Medical Information at the British Heart Foundation, said: "It should be noted that South Asian diets, like Mediterranean diets, can be healthy as they include a high level of fruit and vegetables.

"However, conventional South Asian diets can also contain high levels of saturated fat, which would put people at an increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease (CVD).

"Although this is interesting research that adds to our knowledge about the effect of diet in terms of risk for CVD, the research only focuses on one risk factor for South Asians.

"A variety of factors could be responsible for the increased risk of CVD for South Asians living in the west, including levels of physical activity, diabetes, smoking, blood pressure and cholesterol.

"Further research is therefore needed to see how these other factors might relate to these findings."

See also:

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