8 Scientific Health Benefits of the Mediterranean Diet

8 Scientific Health Benefits of the Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean diet is one of the so-called diets that has received the most praise for its positive effects on health. The Mediterranean diet was named first on U.S. News & World Report’s list of the top 40 diets overall for 2022 because to its “many health benefits, including weight loss, heart and brain health, cancer prevention, and diabetes prevention and control.” proper up arrow.  The Mediterranean diet, which is popular in Mediterranean nations like Spain, Italy, and Greece, emphasizes a lot of vegetables, fruits, nuts, legumes, seeds, and fish as well as a moderate amount of dairy products and little to no red meat. It is more of an eating pattern than a calorie-restricted diet.

“I look at it as a Mediterranean lifestyle. It’s not so much what they eat, which is beneficial and anti-inflammatory; it’s in how they eat it,” according to Robert E. Graham, MD, MPH, a co-founder of the integrative medicine clinic FRESH Medicine in New York City.

Processed foods high in sugar, refined carbs, and bad fats are avoided by followers (think: chips, cookies, cake, white bread, white rice, and the like). Nonetheless, they do occasionally enjoy a glass of red wine with dinner. The Mediterranean diet pattern emphasizes socializing over food and drink, staying active, and always practicing moderation. Significantly, though, there is no calorie, fat, or glycemic load counting to determine that moderation.

Here is a look at eight of the well-publicized health benefits of the Mediterranean diet, along with the research that supports them.

1. The Mediterranean Diet May Reduce Your Risk of Heart Disease

The Mediterranean diet may be healthy for your heart, according to numerous research.

The PREDIMED study, a randomized clinical trial, contains some of the strongest supporting data. Authors monitored 7,000 men and women in Spain with type 2 diabetes or who were at high risk for cardiovascular disease for around five years.

Three groups of participants were chosen at random, and each group got instructions on the Mediterranean diet but not on caloric restriction. Free extra-virgin olive oil was distributed to one group with instructions to consume a minimal amount; free mixed nuts were distributed to another group with instructions to consume a minimum; and non-food gifts were distributed to the third group. By the end of the follow-up period, those who had the calorie-unrestricted Mediterranean diet with added olive oil or nuts had around a 30% lower risk of heart events than the control group. Participants received no workout advice from the researchers.

“That is probably the biggest scientific evidence to say that a Mediterranean diet is healthful, in terms of reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease,” according to Carson

2. A Mediterranean Diet May Reduce Women’s Risk of Stroke

We already know from the PREDIMED study that some persons have a lower risk of cardiovascular disease when they follow a Mediterranean diet. According to a cohort study, “the diet may also lower women’s risk of stroke, even if researchers didn’t see the same results in men”.

Researchers examined 23,232 men and women, most of whom were white, who lived in the United Kingdom and ranged in age from 40 to 77. The lesser a woman’s risk of stroke, the more closely she adhered to the Mediterranean diet. But, men did not show statistically meaningful results, according to researchers. The diet most significantly decreased the risk of stroke by 20% in women who were at high risk for the condition.

“Research authors don’t sure why, but they suspect that various types of strokes in men and women may have a role. A clinical trial would be an useful next step in figuring out the causes of the disparities”, according to Carson.

The severity of a stroke, should one occur, may also be impacted by following a Mediterranean diet. According to one examination of 368 stroke patients, individuals following a Mediterranean diet experienced less severe strokes.

3. A Mediterranean Diet May Prevent Cognitive Decline and Alzheimer’s Disease

The Mediterranean diet, which is good for your heart, may help prevent memory loss and cognitive decline as you age. “There is growing evidence that what we eat can impact our brains as we age,” according to  Claire Sexton, DPhil, the Chicago-based director of scientific programs and outreach at the Alzheimer’s Association. Dr. Sexton says that one diet that may lower the risk of dementia is the Mediterranean diet.  “Generally speaking, it is best to eat a heart-healthy diet low in saturated fats and high in vegetables and fruits,” she claims. “Such a diet may have vascular and anti-inflammatory properties.”

An analysis of the impact of the Mediterranean diet on cognitive function came to the conclusion “there is encouraging evidence that a higher adherence to a Mediterranean diet is associated with improving cognition, slowing cognitive decline, or reducing the conversion to Alzheimer’s disease.”

Also, a tiny study evaluated the brain scans of 70 individuals who did not initially exhibit any signs of dementia and graded them according to how closely their eating habits matched those of the Mediterranean diet. By the end of the trial, those with low scores had poorer energy utilization in the brain and more beta-amyloid deposits (protein plaques in the brain linked to Alzheimer’s disease). These people also displayed larger increases in deposits and decreases in energy usage at least two years later than those who adhered to the Mediterranean diet more rigorously, presumably indicating an increased risk for Alzheimer’s.

Having said that, further research is required before advising this dietary strategy to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s. The authors demanded more research with a bigger sample size and a longer study duration.

Cholinesterase inhibitors, which are already used to treat symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease like memory loss, disorientation, and issues with thinking and reasoning, may provide some relief for patients with Lewy body dementia.

4. The Mediterranean Diet May Help With Weight Loss and Maintenance

The Mediterranean diet may help you lose weight in a secure, healthy, and long-lasting manner; nevertheless, it probably won’t result in rapid weight reduction because of its emphasis on full, fresh foods. As previously indicated, the Mediterranean diet was ranked No. 1 in its overall category by U.S. News & World Report in its 2022 rankings, but it is tied for 12th position in the website’s Best Weight Loss category with a number of other diets.

Compared to a low-fat vegan diet, the Mediterranean diet promotes the consumption of oil, nuts, fish, and other animal products, which can be counterproductive to weight loss efforts if consumed in high quantities.

But if you cut calories as well, you’ll undoubtedly lose weight. A calorie-restricted low-fat diet, a calorie-restricted Mediterranean diet, and a calorie-unrestricted low-carb diet were all practiced by 322 moderately obese middle-aged volunteers in Israel, most of whom were men. Following the Mediterranean diet meant limiting calorie intake for men and women to 1,800 and 1,500, respectively, with the goal of having no more than 35% of calories come from fat. The low-fat diet participants were subject to the same calorie limitations. The Mediterranean diet group experienced a mean weight loss of 4.4 kg (9.7 lb), 2.9 kg (6.4 lb), and 4.7 kg, respectively (10.3 lb)

And the diet might aid in weight loss maintenance. According to a study, people who ate a Mediterranean-style diet had a twice-as-high chance of keeping their weight off.

5. A Mediterranean Diet May Stave Off Type 2 Diabetes

A Mediterranean diet may be the best option for managing type 2 diabetes and potential disease prevention.

Researchers used PREDIMED participants to randomize a subgroup of 418 healthy adults aged 55 to 80, and they checked up with them four years later to determine if they had developed diabetes. While they didn’t necessarily lose weight or exercise more, participants who adhered to the Mediterranean diet had a 52 percent lower risk of type 2 diabetes during the four-year follow-up, regardless of whether they received free olive oil or almonds.

Furthermore, earlier studies showed that in persons with type 2 diabetes, the Mediterranean diet improved blood sugar control more than low-carbohydrate, low-glycemic index, and high-protein diets. This finding implies that type 2 diabetes-related health issues may be prevented by following a Mediterranean diet.

6. People With Rheumatoid Arthritis May Benefit From the Mediterranean Diet

An autoimmune condition known as rheumatoid arthritis (RA) occurs when the body’s immune system erroneously assaults the joints, resulting in pain and swelling in and around the joints. The anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids found in abundance in the Mediterranean diet are only one of the aspects of this diet that may help reduce symptoms of RA.

Further research is required, but current evidence suggests that long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, which are present in fatty fish, may be effective in treating RA symptoms in addition to medicine.

Anti-inflammatory diets, such as the Mediterranean diet, were found to lessen rheumatoid arthritis discomfort more than other diets, according to a systematic review and meta-analysis.

7. Are Foods in the Mediterranean Diet Protective Against Cancer?

A Mediterranean diet meal plan may, in fact, aid in the prevention of several cancers.

According to a systematic review and meta-analysis, the Mediterranean diet lowers the chance of developing malignancies like breast, colorectal, and head and neck cancers and helps cancer survivors avoid death.

According to a different study using PREDIMED data, women who followed a Mediterranean diet rich in extra-virgin olive oil had a 62 percent lower chance of developing breast cancer than those in the low-fat diet control group.

8. Some Foods in the Mediterranean Diet May Ease Depression

A review of 41 observational studies found a relationship between the Mediterranean diet and a lower prevalence of depression.

Comparing participants who followed the diet to those who followed a “pro-inflammatory diet,” which is more representative of a conventional American diet and higher in processed meats, sugar, and trans fats, indicated that the diet was related with a 33 percent reduced risk of depression.

The study failed to explain why a Mediterranean diet reduced the incidence of depression. The findings of the study, according to the authors, may serve as a springboard for the creation and investigation of diet-based therapies for depression.

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