Screen Shot 2015-01-31 at 6.19.24 pmWhat’s the secret to the Mediterranean diet, which we all know is good for us and our heart? Researchers think they have finally figured it out: it’s the interplay between olive oil and leafy salad.

When the unsaturated fats in olive oil are in contact with the nitrite in vegetables and salad greens, they form nitro fatty acids, which lower blood pressure. Nuts and avocado can also do the job of the olive oil, say researchers from King’s College London.

They fed the diet to genetically-engineered mice, but they are confident they would see the same health-giving results in humans. The mice share with humans an enzyme called epoxide hydrolase, which can raise blood pressure levels. The nitro fatty acids from the diet block the enzyme.

Many studies have demonstrated the benefits of the Mediterranean diet, which is made up of fresh vegetables and fruit, salads, wholegrain cereals, and olive oil and nuts – but now we know why it works.

Source: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2014; doi: 10.1073/ pnas.1402965111