Mediterranean diet is associated with lower incidence of coronary heart disease, and two randomised trials indicated that it improves prognosis of coronary patients. These trials, however, relied on a total of 100 deaths and evaluated designer diets in the clinical context. We have evaluated the association of adherence to the modified Mediterranean diet, in which unsaturates were substituted for monounsaturates, with survival among elderly with previous myocardial infarction within the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and nutrition (EPIC) study. As of December 2003, after a median follow-up of 6.7 years, 2671 EPIC participants from nine countries were 60 years or older and had prevalent myocardial infarction but no stroke or cancer at enrolment, complete information on dietary intakes and important covariates and known survival status. Adherence to the modified Mediterranean diet was assessed through a 10-unit-scale. Mortality ratio in relation to modified Mediterranean diet was estimated through Cox regression controlling for possible confounding. Increased adherence to modified Mediterranean diet by two units was associated with 18% lower overall mortality rate (95% confidence interval 7-27%, fixed effects model). There was no significant heterogeneity by sex, age at enrolment, or country, although the association tended to be less evident among northern Europeans. Associations between food groups contributing to the modified Mediterranean diet and mortality were generally weak. A diet inspired by the Mediterranean pattern that can be easily adopted by Western populations is associated with substantial reduction of total mortality of coronary patients in the community.
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