Mediterranean Diet Linked to Better Cardiac Function

Greater conformity to the diet associated with higher heart rate variability
By Jeff Muise
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, June 16 (HealthDay News) -- The closer a person conforms to a Mediterranean diet, the greater the likelihood of higher heart rate variability (HRV), indicating better cardiac autonomic function and lower risk for coronary artery disease, according to a study published online June 15 in Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes.

Jun Dai, M.D., of Indiana University in Bloomington, and colleagues administered the Willett Food Frequency Questionnaire to 276 middle-aged male twins. With the dietary data, the researchers used an established algorithm to derive a score to reflect each subject's conformance to a Mediterranean diet. All twins also had an ambulatory 24-hour electrocardiogram to record five time domain and six frequency domain HRV parameters. Regression analysis was used to associate diet and HRV differences between- and within-twin pairs.

The researchers found that a one-unit higher score on the Mediterranean diet scale had a significant association with higher time domain and frequency domain HRV parameters (ranging from 3.9 to 13 percent). These estimates stayed the same after the researchers controlled for known cardiovascular risk factors and use of medications and fish oil supplements.

"In conclusion, our study demonstrates for the first time a positive association between the Mediterranean dietary pattern and HRV. Our findings suggest that autonomic tone may be one of mechanisms linking the Mediterranean diet to a lower rate of cardiovascular events," the authors write.

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