Good news for anyone with a family history of heart disease and stroke – you can change your genetic inheritance with a healthy diet, say researchers.

A Mediterranean diet – which includes olive oil, fish, complex carbohydrates and nuts – can overwrite genetic codes that dramatically increase the risk for heart disease and stroke, say researchers at Tufts University.

They made the discovery while testing the impact of several diets – the Mediterranean and a low-fat diet – on around 7,000 men and women, and how it affected their chances of developing heart disease over a five-year period. But around 900 of the participants had genetic variations that made them more susceptible for heart disease, and which is usually preceded by type 2 diabetes.

However, the increased risk was eliminated in those who were eating the Mediterranean diet; it put them “on an even playing field with everyone else”, one of the researchers said.

(Source: Diabetes Care, 2013; doi: 10.2337/dc13-0955)