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Mediterranean Diet Linked to Better Cardiac Function
Date:6/15/2010

Was associated with more heart rate variability in study

TUESDAY, June 15 (HealthDay News) -- Eating a Mediterranean-style diet might improve an important measure of heart function, a new study of twins shows.

The research was conducted with twins to try to eliminate the possible effect of genetics as much as possible, explained Dr. Jun Dai, an assistant professor of nutrition and epidemiology at Indiana University, and lead author of a report released online June 15 in advance of publication in the July print issue of Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes.

The Mediterranean-style diet differs from standard American fare by featuring a low content of saturated fats and high intake of fish, fruits, vegetables, olive oil, nuts and cereals, with a glass or two of wine a day. Many studies have linked it to a lower incidence of heart disease.

This latest research included 276 male twins, some identical, some fraternal; fraternal twins share 50 percent of their genes while identical twins share 100 percent. The researchers measured their heart rate variability, the variation in the time interval between heartbeats in everyday life. "Higher variability reflects good function of the heart," Dai explained.

The men in the study reported their food preferences on a questionnaire, and were scored by how closely their intake matched that of a Mediterranean diet. Their heart activity was measured and recorded with a portable, battery-operated electrocardiogram monitor.

The study found that higher Mediterranean diet scores were related to greater variability in heart rate. On a nine-point scale, every one-unit difference was associated with a greater heart rate variability of 3.9 percent to 13 percent. This equates to a 9 percent to 14 percent reduction in the risk of heart-related death, the report said.

The results can't be generalized to everyone, because all the twins in the stu
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