In past studies, the so-called Mediterranean diet has been found to have many beneficial effects on health, including reduction in the rates of cardiovascular disease, obesity, Type 2 diabetes, and some types of cancer. Now, a new, large-scale study conducted at the Horokopio University of Athens has found that this model of eating can also reduce the risk of metabolic syndrome — a cluster of factors that raises the risk of heart disease, stroke, and Type 2 diabetes — and its individual components.
The Mediterranean diet focuses on the consumption of healthful monounsaturated fats (primarily from olives and their oils), fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, fish, nuts, and legumes. The eating pattern is also characterized by a moderate daily consumption of alcohol, generally with meals, and a relatively low intake of red meat.
To get a broad overview of its health effects, researchers in Greece and Italy conducted a meta-analysis of 50 studies on the Mediterranean diet with a total of more than 500,000 participants. (A meta-analysis is a type of research in which statistics from several studies are combined and examined.) Key among the findings was that Mediterranean-style eating is associated with beneficial effects on elements of the metabolic syndrome such as blood pressure, triglycerides (a type of blood fat), blood glucose levels, waist circumference, and HDL (“good”) cholesterol levels.
Demosthenes Panagiotakos, PhD, lead author of the study, and his team noted that “The prevalence of the metabolic syndrome is increasing rapidly throughout the world, in parallel with the increasing incidence of diabetes and obesity, and is now considered a major public health problem… Our results add to the existing knowledge, and further demonstrate the protective role and the significance that lifestyle factors, and mainly dietary habits, have when it comes to the progression of the metabolic syndrome.”
To learn more, read the piece “Mediterranean Diet Reduces Risk of Metabolic Syndrome” or see the study’s abstract in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
And if you’re eager to try the diet out for yourself, give one of these Mediterranean-inspired dishes a try: