The Mediterranean Diet decreases LDL atherogenicity in high cardiovascular risk individuals: a randomized controlled trial

Mol Nutr Food Res. 2017 Sep;61(9). doi: 10.1002/mnfr.201601015. Epub 2017 May 2.


Scope: Traditional Mediterranean diet (TMD) protects against cardiovascular disease through several mechanisms such as decreasing LDL cholesterol levels. However, evidence regarding TMD effects on LDL atherogenic traits (resistance against oxidation, size, composition, cytotoxicity) is scarce.

Methods and results: We assessed the effects of a 1-year intervention with a TMD on LDL atherogenic traits in a random sub-sample of individuals from the PREDIMED study (N = 210). We compared two TMDs: one enriched with virgin olive oil (TMD-VOO, N = 71) and another with nuts (TMD-Nuts, N = 68), versus a low-fat control diet (N = 71). After the TMD-VOO intervention, LDL resistance against oxidation increased (+6.46%, p = 0.007), the degree of LDL oxidative modifications decreased (-36.3%, p<0.05), estimated LDL particle size augmented (+3.06%, p = 0.021), and LDL particles became cholesterol-rich (+2.41% p = 0.013) relative to the low-fat control diet. LDL lipoproteins became less cytotoxic for macrophages only relative to baseline (-13.4%, p = 0.019). No significant effects of the TMD-Nuts intervention on LDL traits were observed versus the control diet.

Conclusion: Adherence to a TMD, particularly when enriched with virgin olive oil, decreased LDL atherogenicity in high cardiovascular risk individuals. The development of less atherogenic LDLs could contribute to explaining some of the cardioprotective benefits of this dietary pattern.

Keywords: LDL cytotoxicity; LDL oxidation; LDL size; Low density lipoproteins; Mediterranean diet.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Atherosclerosis / prevention & control*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / prevention & control*
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Diet, Mediterranean*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lipoproteins, LDL / metabolism*
  • Lipoproteins, LDL / toxicity
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nuts
  • Particle Size
  • Risk


  • Lipoproteins, LDL
  • oxidized low density lipoprotein