– Rye, which is rich in rutine and Vitamin P, stimulates blood circulation and strengthens blood vessels.

– Apricots are rich in potassium, which is beneficial for the heart.

– Persons with heart problems will find a diet based on whole grain rice and fruit beneficial, since one of the main causes of heart disease is overeating. As a general preventive measure, make your own diet, and that of your family, low in fat. Opt for:

– 2% or skimmed milk instead of whole milk or cream;

– low-fat (less than 40%) cheese;

– lean meat and fish (except for some oily fish on occasion).

– Avoid junk food snacks like peanuts, biscuits, chips, etc. (50 grams or 2 ounces of chips contain the equivalent of two tablespoons of oil!).

– Don’t drink a lot of alcohol – a glass of wine per day is a safe amount.

– Eat a lot of vegetal fibre to lower cholesterol levels: apples, garlic, onion, artichokes, etc.

– Don’t use too much salt. If you already have a heart problem, it might be a good idea to eliminate salt altogether .

– Be especially careful during holiday seasons. Avoid processed meats, game, pastry, oysters and other rich foods, and moderate your alcohol consumption. Studies have shown that blood pressure tends to rise significantly during holiday periods.

– Try to eat carrots a few times a week. A diet rich in fresh vegetables and fruit is excellent for the cardiovascular system.

A Mediterranean diet

A study of populations in seven countries (conducted by A. Keys) clearly showed that the consumption of saturated fats is closely linked to the incidence of coronary disease. On the other hand, studies on dietary prevention that attempted to show a direct cause-and-effect relation between various foods and reduced incidence of heart disease were somewhat disappointing:

– Only one study (conducted by Leren in Oslo Norway in 1970) showed a significant reduction (23%) of heart attacks after an initial heart attack, although the incidence of sudden death due to heart attack was not affected.

– Another study (conducted by M. Burr in 1989) showed that a diet rich in fish significantly reduced the incidence of death due to heart attack (by 33%).

– In terms of primary prevention, a second Norwegian study (Hjermann, Oslo, 1986) showed a significant reduction (47%) of non-fatal heart attacks as well as death due to heart attacks.

– Among the seven countries studied by Keys, people living on the island of Crete in Greece suffered 95% fewer fatal heart attacks than people living in Holland or the U.S.

The theory explaining this phenomenal figure is that the diet of people living on Crete is much more effective for preventing heart attacks than the one presently recommended by doctors to prevent an initial heart attack, or recurring heart attacks. The theory is based on previous studies conducted on populations in France, which showed that a Mediterranean diet effectively reduced blood platelet (thrombocyte) activity responsible for heart attacks, without reducing cholesterol levels (Renaud, S., Influence of long-term diet modification on platelet function, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 1986).

This study recruited 600 patients who had suffered an initial heart attack, and who were subsequently hospitalized at the Lyon Cardiovascular Hospital. They were randomly separated into:

– a control group, who were fed the heart attack prevention diet recommended by the American Heart Association;

– an experimental group who were fed a diet very similar to that of people living on Crete: more grains, fruit and vegetables, less meat and processed meats, and moderate amounts offish, cheese and wine. The only difference was that olive oil (the only type of oil used on Crete) was replaced with an experimental colza oil-based margarine, specifically developed for this study, which closely resembles olive oil in composition, but that contains more alpha-linolenic acid (on Crete this essential fatty acid is obtained from olive oil, walnuts and purslane, a type of weed).

After being followed for 1 to 4 years, the experimental group had managed to continue eating more whole grain bread, fresh fruit and vegetables, less meat, and had replaced butter with the experimental margarine (provided to families free of charge).

Results showed that:

– cholesterol and lipoprotein levels in both groups were equally reduced;

– the level of antioxidant vitamins (E and C) was significantly higher in the experimental group;

– after an average of 27 months of follow-up observation, there were 16 incidences of heart attack (8 were fatal) in the control group (the group on the diet recommended by the American Heart Association) and only 3 in the experimental group, with no fatalities – a reduction of 76%;

– as for recurring non-fatal heart attacks, there were 17 in the control group and only 5 in the experimental group – a reduction of 73%;

– the overall mortality rate was reduced by 70% (20 in the control group, 8 in the experimental group).

The conclusion is obvious: a Mediterranean type diet, adapted to modern nutritional habits, seems much more effective for preventing recurring heart attacks, as well as death after an initial heart attack, than the diet prescribed by cardiologists. (Adapted from ‘Mediterranean alpha-linolenic acid-rich diet in secondary prevention of coronary heart disease,’ Lorgeril, Renaud, Mamelle, Salen, Martin, Monjaud, Guidollet, Touboul and Delaye, published in The Lancet, 1994).

Recommended foods

– apricots, pineapple, cherries, strawberries, myrtle, apples, plums

– clay (dissolve a teaspoon of nutritional clay in a glass of water)

– algae

– artichoke, asparagus, eggplant, carrots, cabbage, green beans, lettuce, leeks, tomatoes

– yeast

– olive oil

– wheat, rice, rye, soybean, sunflower seeds

– almonds, walnuts

Foods to avoid

– butter, lard

– coffee

– liver, sweetbreads and other organs, tongue

– sausages and other processed meats

– chocolate

– lobster, tuna