The Mediterranean Diet
decreases your risk of many of the leading causes of death.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
The Mediterranean Diet decreases the risk of heart-related problems such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and heart attacks.
WHAT WE KNOW
The Mediterranean Diet is based on the healthy eating and lifestyle habits of the people living in southern Italy, the Greek island of Crete and other areas of Greece in the early 1960s. The diet has become a popular area of study due to observations made in the 1960s of low incidences of chronic diseases, such as heart disease. The Mediterranean Diet gained much recognition and worldwide interest in the 1990s as a model for healthful eating.
HOW DO WE KNOW THIS?
Those who follow a diet similar to the Mediterranean Diet tend to consume lower amounts of saturated fat. Saturated fat has been associated with increased risk for several heart diseases. The diet also includes an increased intake of healthy fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated) which have been correlated with decreased risk of heart disease as well. The high consumption of fruits and vegetables increases your intake of antioxidants and soluble fiber. Antioxidants protect the body from toxins which can also lead to disease. Soluble fiber has been noted for inhibiting the absorption of cholesterol and bile acid from the small intestines, thereby reducing blood cholesterol and possibly reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
Numerous studies have supported the health promoting abilities of the Mediterranean Diet. Most recently, a study reported in The International Journal of Obesity concluded that a Mediterranean Diet was negatively associated with obesity and visceral adiposity [fat deposit in the arteries] in a rural population of a developing Mediterranean country.*
Even though much evidence supports the claims associated with the Mediterranean Diet, this may not be entirely due to the diet. Lifestyle factors (such as more physical activity) may also play a part. So at this time, more studies are needed to determine whether the diet itself can fully account for the lower rates of heart disease.
However, we do know that fruits and vegetables have been shown to decrease the risk of several of the leading causes of death (including heart disease and type II diabetes). So eating a diet low in saturated fats and rich in fruits and vegetables is the best choice when it comes to promoting a long and healthy life!
So while more studies on this particular diet are needed, adequate fruit and vegetable consumption has been correlated with decreased risk of heart disease. Just remember that when it comes to protecting yourself from many chronic diseases, eating your recommended amount of fruits and vegetables each day (or more!), and decreasing your saturated fat intake (like butter, bacon and other animal sources) are two important elements of any diet.
And those healthy fats? Many fruits and vegetables (avocados, soybeans, etc.) and nuts (Almonds, pecans, walnuts) also contain the heart-healthy fats that are characteristic of the Mediterranean Diet.
*Issa, C., et al. “A Mediterranean diet pattern with low consumption of liquid sweets and refined cereals is negatively associated with adiposity in adults from rural Lebanon.” International Journal of Obesity (2010): doi:10.1038/ijo.2010.130.