High-intensity interval training and the Mediterranean diet shows dramatic results
Abdominal obesity or belly fat is excessive fat around the stomach or abdomen and has been linked to a higher risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, sleep apnea and other health conditions.
Dr. Anil Nigam, Cardiologist, MD, MSc, FRCP, Director of clinical research program in preventive medicine, nutrition and exercise physiology at the EPIC Centre Montreal Heart Institute, Cardiologist prevention, Montreal Heart Institute, Associate Professor of Medicine, University of Montreal and colleagues for this study included participants that all had abdominal obesity.
Participants received high-intensity interval training at two or three times each week combine with counseling on the Mediterranean diet which features include high consumption of fruits, vegetables, olive oil as a monounsaturated fat source, dairy products, fish, poultry in low to moderate amounts and little red meat. High-intensity interval training is a form of cardiovascular training that mixes very high-intensity bursts of activity with low-intensity breaks over 20 to 30 minutes.
The study found on average a reduction on waist circumference of eight centimeters, a reduction is systolic blood pressure (top number, which is also the higher of the two numbers) of 6 mm hg and an aerobic fitness improvement of 15% over the first nine months of the study.
On average, blood sugar levels improved by23% in participants with diabetes and 10% improvement in participants with prediabetes.
The heart health benefits included significant improvements in body fat mass, cholesterol and blood pressure levels, exercise capacity, muscle endurance, weight loss, waist circumference, resting heart rate and blood sugar control.
Dr. Mathieu Gayda, exercise physiologist, PHD, Researcher EPIC center of the Montreal Heart Institute, Associate Professor, Department of Kinesiology, University of Montreal , and one of the authors of the study commented “ Each of these interventions alone is known to have an impact, but no one has studied them together in a longer term.” "Our results show that the combination of the two interventions supersized the benefits to heart health."
Dr. Gayda notes that cardiovascular disease is currently the leading cause of death for Canadians with diabetes. "Improvements and control in blood sugar levels using lifestyle interventions (exercise and diet) can substantially reduce their overall risk of heart disease and stroke and microvascular complications such as retina and kidney disease."
"What is striking is not only the positive early results, which can be common when motivation is high – but the fact that participants kept improving into a second year," said Dr. Nigam.
Dr. Beth Abramson, Heart and Stroke Foundation spokesperson comments “When it comes to a healthy weight and reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke, people look for the magic bullet.” "But there is no magic – it comes down to basics and how we live our lives. We have the power to prevent up to 80 per cent of premature heart disease and stroke."
She adds that the key to a long, heart-healthy life is to manage your diet, be physically active and smoke-free and to avoid excessive alcohol consumption and stress.
"It's about prioritizing your heath today and sticking to your commitment.’ She urges all Canadians to go to makehealthlast.ca to do a personalized risk assessment and get tips and tools to lower their risk.
Americans can go to My Life Check and get an assessment.