Know a person’s eating habits is essential to assess their cardiovascular riskBut this information is usually obtained with questionnaires that are not 100% reliable. Now, a team of scientists has identified a series of molecules in the blood that reveal our adherence to the Mediterranean diet, a “metabolic footprint” that reveals if our diet is correct.

Prevention of serious diseases

In addition to opening a whole field of possibilities to studies on metabolism, the finding has helped to predict strokes and heart attacks (cerebral and myocardial), It will allow us to evaluate our diet in a much more objective and understandable way, and it will be useful to identify the type of diet necessary to prevent cardiovascular diseases.

The study, which has been published this week in the European Heart Journal, is a collaboration between researchers of the CIBER of Obesity and Nutrition (CIBEROBN) of the Universitat Rovira i Virgili and of the University of Navarra, all of them in Spain, from the Predimed research consortium, from Harvard University and from the Broad Institute at MIT in Massachusetts.

About 10,000 patients

The researchers made the study with 1,850 patients from the Spanish Predimed trial (Prevention with Mediterranean Diet) and they replicated the results in 7,000 participants in various healthy nutrition analyzes being carried out in the United States.

First they identified about 400 molecules or ‘metabolites’, “food markers or the effect of these on metabolism, such as lipids or amino acids typical of the Mediterranean diet, but also of the effect it has on metabolism,” he explains to Efe. the Catalan Jordi Salas-Salvadó, researcher at La Rovira i Virgili and main co-author of the work.

The healthy diet

Then, using artificial intelligence algorithms, they identified the 67 molecules whose combination determines whether a person follows a Mediterranean diet, a diet “rich in foods of plant origin, such as fruits and vegetables, and also in legumes and nuts, unrefined whole grains and that uses olive oil for both dressing and cooking,” recalls the researcher.

Likewise, “it is rich in fish and seafood, it includes few dairy products and it is relatively poor in red meat, white meats, and includes few processed foods or foods with sugars such as drinks. Basically it is a frugal diet based on plant origin, “he summarizes.

In both the Spanish and the American samples, the “footprint” of the Mediterranean diet defined by the combination of these 67 elements “it allowed to predict the risk of cardiovascular disease much better than with the questionnaires that are usually done to patients and that punctuate from one to fourteen the habits that reflect a Mediterranean diet “.

Multiple studies

These findings “will allow evaluate more objectively and understandably a person’s adherence to this diet and see their metabolic response, “and will help explain the benefits that this diet has shown in multiple studies and clinical trials around the world, says Salas-Salvadó.

The same magazine includes an editorial by the European Society of Cardiology in which the medical organization highlights the importance of this “innovative method” that will be “a powerful tool” to assess people’s diets and create a more “reliable and robust” metabolomic profile than that traditionally obtained through questionnaires in which a lot of information is lost due to forgetfulness or omission of the patient.

It also anticipates that the metabolic footprint will be “a promising tool for personalized medicine” and “the first step in a paradigm shift toward high-level testing.”