It is well-documented that rates of cardiovascular disease are lower in the Mediterranean. While scientists believe that diet and other lifestyle factors have an important role to play, researchers have discovered another reason why the Greeks have such healthy hearts.
Scientists analysing cardiovascular disease risk in certain parts of the country have discovered a genetic variant, which appears to protect against heart disease. Researchers found that people living in certain areas of Crete have a variant, which seems to protect the heart against the impact of ‘bad fats’ and cholesterol-rich foods. In the mountainous villages of Anogia and Zoniana, rates of cardiovascular disease are incredibly low, despite the fact that the typical diet is rich in foods like lamb and cheese. It’s rare for those who live in the Mylopotamos region of the island to leave and villagers are famed for living well beyond the global average life expectancy.
A diet containing red meat and cheese would normally be a recipe for disaster in terms of health problems, but the people of Mylopotamos have exceptional standards of health and rates of heart disease are lower than average. Researchers from Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute believe that a genetic variant protects the heart against bad fats and high levels of cholesterol, thus reducing the risk of cardiovascular complications. The variant appears to be almost exclusive to the rural villages in Crete and is likely to explain the relationship between old age and good health.
The findings of the study have been published in the Nature Communications journal.