Why do cardiovascular diseases take so many lives of young men and women in Russia and the former Soviet Union – and in Greece and Spain, they suffer much less from heart disease?
Cardiac surgeon Alexei Fedorov is convinced that the matter of nutrition is traditionally in favor of the heart in some regions, but not in others. How to eat to keep the heart and vessels healthy for years to come?
Scientists have been watching the nutrition of long-livers for a long time. For example, Japanese people, who often live up to a hundred years, prefer seafood: fish, octopus, algae and, of course, rice. Their diet is very low in animal fats – meat and dairy products, as well as carbohydrates.
On the other hand, it is impossible to imagine the food traditions of the Caucasian mountaineers, who are also traditionally considered to be long-livers, without fatty lamb, be it shish kebab or rich shurpa. Cheeses and other dairy products of high fat content are common on their tables. So, nutrition does not always play a major role in the development of heart disease?
It would be more correct to say that, in addition to the usual diet, there are many other factors that affect the heart in different parts of the world. But nutrition is still one of the determinants. So how do you eat to minimize the risk of heart attack and stroke?
To answer this question, we will take … a map of the world. But not physical or geographical, but medical, where mortality from cardiovascular diseases is marked.
The first thing that is striking is that Russia and the former Soviet republics are marked in red. Alas, we and our neighbors still have a high mortality rate from heart diseases. Moreover, the red color sprawls further, partially or completely absorbing almost all the countries of the former socialist camp.
Having gone through an epoch of deficiency, the collapse of the system, the “dashing nineties”, one or more revolutions, their inhabitants have been under stress for too long, eating cheap food and addicted to bad habits, which are so hard to get rid of.
The next thing you know, it’s more interesting. Almost all the countries of the European Mediterranean – from Portugal to Greece – are painted either light green or dark green. Here the morbidity and mortality rate from cardiovascular diseases is the lowest, it is much lower than in Eastern Europe. You may have guessed that the reason for this is a special type of diet, which is typical for these places – the Mediterranean diet.
The secrets of the Mediterranean diet
Scientists have long guessed about the positive impact of eating habits of the inhabitants of the European south on the health of the heart, but only recently the hypothesis has received final and irrevocable confirmation – this can only be a successfully completed randomized study in medicine. Launched in 2003 and completed in 2010, it was finalized in 2013 and the results published.
Observing nearly 7,000 Spaniards over a period of 7 years, scientists have proven that the Mediterranean type of diet reduces the overall risk of cardiovascular disease, as well as the risk of dying from a heart attack by 30%. Almost a third, which is really a lot. It remains to be seen what is so unusual about this amazing Mediterranean diet.
The first one is the large amount of fruits and vegetables. They – especially vegetables – make up almost half of the diet. Remember the counters of the Spanish or Italian markets. And their fairy tales are all about the same – Cipollino was an onion, the gentleman was a tomato, and all the rest are fruits and vegetables. And where they are in abundance – there are fewer animal fats.
The second is olive oil. It is cooked, added to the dough, and dressed with numerous salads. It is the oil of the first pressing, the so-called “extra virgin”, which acidity is no more than 0.8%, and the content of polyunsaturated fatty acids (especially linoleic acid), known for its antioxidant properties, is the highest. And, of course, olive oil is rich in another well-known anioxidant – vitamin E.
The third difference is the large number of nuts. These are walnuts, peanuts, almonds, hazelnuts and other less common varieties, which combine a high content of polyunsaturated fatty acids and potassium useful for the heart. In addition, nuts are rich in vegetable proteins and the need for animal proteins decreases.
Fourth, unlike us Northerners, Italians and their neighbors prefer to produce carbohydrates in the form of fibre rather than in a readily digestible form. They have whole grains of bread, pasta made of flour from coarsely milled flour, and it seems that they are undercooked. And also legumes and porridges from them make up a significant part of the diet.
This is doubly useful – carbohydrates are absorbed gradually and are not consumed immediately, and replenish the glycogen in the liver, in addition, fiber contributes to better digestion. Moreover, it also works as an enterosorbent, preventing the absorption of toxins and cholesterol from the intestines.
The fifth is fish instead of the red meat we are used to, especially pork and beef. It is not surprising that the countries washed by the warm and rich Mediterranean Sea are “ground” in the sea cuisine. The animal fat content in fish is much lower than in pork and beef, but the content of polyunsaturated fatty acids is much higher.
Southern fish loses to northern breeds by their concentration, but still fish dishes are much more useful than meat ones. Especially since fish is not so caloric, but not less rich in protein.