High cholesterol affects tens of millions of Britons but a lesser-known diet holds promise of turning these sorry statistics around.
According to a new study published in JAMA Network Open, the Atlantic diet has been shown to improve HDL "good" cholesterol levels and reduce belly fat - interventions that slash the risk of heart disease.
The eating plan, native to northwestern Spain and Portugal, emphasises fish and seafood, vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, olive oil, dried fruits (particularly chestnuts), milk, cheese, and moderate meat and wine intake.
For the study, researchers followed more than 200 families from the rural Spanish community of A Estrada from March 2014 to May 2015.
The eating plan was also shown to reduce belly fat
They were divided into two groups: 121 families were directed to follow the Atlantic diet, while 110 families continued to adhere to their typical diet.
Over the course of the six-month study, data was collected on the participants’ dietary intake, physical activity, medication use, and other variables.
Researchers in Spain also measured their waist circumference, triglyceride levels, HDL cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and fasting glucose levels - a cluster of risk factors for cardiovascular disease, otherwise known as metabolic syndrome.
Of the 457 participants who didn’t have metabolic syndrome at the beginning of the trial, 23 developed it during the six-month follow-up — 17 participants (7.3 percent) who followed their traditional diet and six participants (2.7 percent) who had switched to the Atlantic diet.
Of the 117 participants who met the criteria for metabolic syndrome at the start of the study, 18 of the Atlantic adherents (28.6 percent) and 16 in the control group (29.6 percent) were no longer in the danger zone by the end.
The researchers concluded that the Atlantic diet “had no significant effect on high blood pressure, high triglyceride levels, or high fasting serum glucose levels” but improved waist circumference and HDL cholesterol levels.
“The Atlantic Diet presents significant potential for enhancing health due to its emphasis on nutrient-dense foods and family-oriented eating habits,” Michelle Routhenstein, a registered dietitian nutritionist who specializes in heart disease at EntirelyNourished.com, told Healthline.
“By prioritising wholesome ingredients and traditional cooking methods such as stewing, this diet enhances the bioavailability of nutrients, ensuring that the body can better absorb and utilise them.”
The eating plan closely resembles the Mediterranean diet, which has been shown to boost heart health
It comes after a previous study suggested that close adherence to the Atlantic diet reduced the risk of early death.
The 2021 study, published in the journal BMC Medicine, found Atlantic dieters had lower levels of cardiovascular risk factors, reduced risk for myocardial infarction (blockage of blood flow to the heart) and lower all-cause mortality.
The benefits are not entirely surprising, given that the eating plan closely resembles the Mediterranean diet.
Numerous studies have suggested the Mediterranean diet, is high in vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, beans, cereals, grains, fish and unsaturated fats, can boost heart health.