US Firefighters & The Mediterranean Diet

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How An Olive Oil Rich Diet Helped To Keep Our Brave Firefighters Fighting Fit

Updated 10th June 2021

Firefiighters And The Mediterranean
Firefiighters And The Mediterranean

Firefighters in the USA who followed a Mediterranean Diet decreased their risk of heart disease in a major study carried out by the Harvard School of Public Health and Cambridge Health Alliance.

The research, entitled Feeding America’s Bravest: Survival Mediterranean Style examined the effect that adhering to the principles of a Mediterranean Diet (focussed on fruits and vegetables, beans, nuts, whole-grain breads and cereals, olives and extra virgin olive oil).

The best olive oils, such as Morocco Gold Extra Virgin Olive Oil, are considered to be a healthy monounsaturated fat. Nutritional habits which include healthy fats, such as the Mediterranean diet have been associated with lower fatality rates from all causes as well as a reduced risk of obesity, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and other risk factors for heart disease.

As summarised by a report in USA Today, Firefighters who most closely followed the Mediterranean diet had a 35% decreased risk of metabolic syndrome, a combination of heart disease risk factors that includes a large waistline, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, high triglycerides (blood fats) and low HDL (good) cholesterol — compared with those who were following the diet least closely.

Firefighters,The Mediterranean Diet and Cholesterol

Mediterranean Diet Choices
Mediterranean Diet & Heart Health

Additional findings from the research, based on the dietary habits of 780 Midwestern firefighters using a modified Mediterranean diet score (mMDS) derived from a comprehensive lifestyle questionnaire, found the following:) Respondents who followed the Mediterranean diet, which includes health fats like extra virgin olive oil, most closely had a 43% reduced risk of gaining 5 or more pounds over the past five years compared with those who consumed a diet that was the least like the Mediterranean diet.

  1. Respondents who followed the Mediterranean diet, which includes health fats like extra virgin olive oil, most closely had a 43% reduced risk of gaining 5 or more pounds over the past five years compared with those who consumed a diet that was the least like the Mediterranean diet.
  2. Participants who followed the Mediterranean diet were more likely to have higher HDL (good) cholesterol and lower LDL (bad) cholesterol.
  3. Obese firefighters involved in the study were more likely to report a higher intake of sugar-sweetened beverages and fast food.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Cardiovascular Health

What are cardiovascular diseases?

Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) are the number 1 cause of death globally: more people die annually from CVDs than from any other cause.

An estimated 17.9 million people died from CVDs in 2016, representing 31% of all global deaths. Of these deaths, 85% are due to heart attack and stroke.

Most cardiovascular diseases can be prevented by addressing behavioural risk factors such as tobacco use, unhealthy diet and obesity, physical inactivity and harmful use of alcohol using population-wide strategies.

Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) – World Health Organization

CVDs are a group of disorders of the heart and blood vessels. They include:

  • Coronary heart disease – disease of the blood vessels supplying the heart muscle;
  • Cerebrovascular disease – disease of the blood vessels supplying the brain;
  • Peripheral arterial disease – disease of blood vessels supplying the arms and legs;
  • Rheumatic heart disease – damage to the heart muscle and heart valves from rheumatic fever, caused by streptococcal bacteria;
  • Congenital heart disease – malformations of heart structure existing at birth;
  • Deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism – blood clots in the leg veins, which can dislodge and move to the heart and lungs.

At the age of 24, your risk for CVD is just 20%. By age 45, your chances more than double to 50%. Over the age of 80, 90% of individuals have some form of CVD.

How Extra Virgin Olive Oil Helps To Protect Against CVD

 The increased focus on healthy food and healthy diet has seen more food lovers turn towards diets like the Mediterranean diet and the Keto diet. Whether this is for specific health reasons, a diet to lower cholesterol, a diet for high blood pressure, a diet for weight loss or for overall wellness one of the key constituents that remains a constant is extra virgin olive oil, the original superfood.

What makes extra virgin olive oil so special is that it has stood the test of time as a superfood from the time of the ancients. Olive oil has long been considered sacred. The olive branch was often a symbol of abundance, glory, and peace. Over the years, the olive has also been used to symbolize wisdom, fertility, power, and purity.

In ancient Rome, olive oil was used for nearly everything in relation to their health. Roman medicine takes heavily from Greek doctors, who influenced European medicine for centuries, and Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine writes about over 60 different conditions or ailments that can be treated with olive oil. 

Olive oil is now probably the most widely researched superfood on the planet and its many health benefits are evidence based and well understood. Thanks to the recent spotlight on the Mediterranean Diet, extensive research has been done on the phytonutrient composition of olive oil. What has been discovered is an extensive list of phytonutrients; one of the most praised is its polyphenols. The amount of polyphenols found in Extra Virgin Olive Oil is truly amazing!

Extra Virgin Olive Oil And The Cardiovascular System

Lowering your risk of cardiovascular problems is an area upon which several recent studies on Extra Virgin Olive Oil have focused. Chronic inflammation is a risk factor for many types of cardiovascular disease, and Extra Virgin Olive Oil has well-documented anti-inflammatory properties.

One place we don’t want excessive ongoing inflammation is within our blood vessels. Our blood supply is just too important for maintaining the health of all our body systems, and it cannot effective support our body systems when compromised with ongoing inflammation. Given this relationship, it’s not surprising to see cardiovascular benefits of Extra Virgin Olive Oil rising to the top of the health benefits provided by this remarkable oil.

From a variety of different research perspectives we know that daily intake of Extra Virgin Olive Oil in amounts as low as one tablespoon per day reduces inflammatory processes within our blood vessels. By reducing these processes, Extra Virgin Olive Oil also reduces our risk of inflammation-related cardiovascular diseases like atherosclerosis.

Yet anti-inflammatory benefits are not the only cardiovascular benefits provided by Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Two other broad types of heart-related benefits are well documented for this oil. The first type is lessened risk of forming unwanted blood clots. While blood clotting is a natural and healthy process required for the healing of wounds and prevention of excessive bleeding, clotting in the arteries can ultimately result in a heart attack or stroke.

One risk factor for unwanted clotting in our arteries is excessive clumping together of our platelet blood cells. This clumping process is also called “aggregation.” Regular incorporation of Extra Virgin Olive Oil into a meal plan has been shown to lessen the risk of this excessive aggregation, and the reason that researchers refer to Extra Virgin Olive Oil as an “anti-aggregatory” oil.

The other broad area of cardiovascular benefits involves improved levels of circulating fats in our bloodstream, as well as protection of those fats from oxygen-related damage. Decreased levels of total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol following consumption of Extra Virgin Olive Oil are findings are the vast majority of studies that have analysed this relationship.

Yet equally important, the cholesterol molecules that remain in our blood also appear to be better protected from oxygen-related damage (oxidation). Since fats and cholesterol belong to a broader technical category called “lipids,” damage to the fats and cholesterol in our blood stream is typically referred to as “lipid peroxidation.” And it is precisely this lipid peroxidation process that gets reduced through incorporation of Extra Virgin Olive Oil into a meal plan.

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