An individual's economic standing - whether they are well-off or not - impacts on how effective the Mediterranean diet, known to protect against heart diseases, can be, according to new research.

Being educated and well-off, or having a household income over £35,000, can make families buy food listed under the diet, which are higher in quality.

Better quality, in this case, means food containing higher amounts of antioxidants and polyphenol and lower in pesticides usage.

The study claims the same is true even if both low and high socioeconomic groups adhere to the same diet.

“The cardiovascular benefits associated with the Mediterranean diet in a general population are well known, yet for the first time our study has revealed that the socioeconomic position is able to modulate the health advantages linked to Mediterranean diet,” Dr Marialaura Bonaccio of the Department of Epidemiology and Prevention, Neurological Mediterranean Institute, said.

The Mediterranean diet consists of fresh fruits and vegetables, seafood, nuts and olive oil, and are known to protect against heart diseases, cancer, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and reduces the risk for Alzheimer’s disease.

Researchers studied nearly 19,000 participants over a period of four years,whom they monitored for their risk for such diseases. Results suggested that those who maintained the diet with a considerable household income slashed their risk of heart disease by 15 percent.

No significant benefit of the diet, meanwhile, was recorded for those with lower income, leading the researchers to claim that the overall quality of the food may have an effect on the diet’s benefits.

“These substantial differences in consuming products belonging to the Mediterranean diet lead us to think that quality of foods may be as important for health as quantity and frequency of intake,” Dr Bonaccio said. Their study was published in the Epidemiology.

With the result, the director of the Institute, Dr Giovanni de Gaetano suggested the messaging around Mediterranean should change as people might not be getting the same benefit.  MIMS

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