The Mediterranean Diet: 10 Scientifically Proven Health Benefits, According to Research

The Mediterranean diet is widely considered to be the healthiest diet plan available.

    This diet may provide a variety of health benefits, including weight loss and heart and brain health, cancer prevention, and the control and management of type 2 diabetes. By adopting the Mediterranean diet, you may be able to lose weight while simultaneously avoiding chronic disease and other health problems.

The Mediterranean diet promotes heart health by emphasizing healthy fats, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, and seeds.

    There is no such thing as "a" Mediterranean diet. Food is prepared differently by Greeks and Italians, who in turn prepare food differently by French and Spaniards. However, they are based on many of the same concepts.

    There are numerous scientifically proven health benefits associated with the Mediterranean diet, which are discussed in this article:

5. A Mediterranean diet can help you live longer.

    According to a study published in the BMJ, the Mediterranean diet is linked to a longer life expectancy among elderly Europeans.

    The Mediterranean diet is defined by a high intake of vegetables, legumes, fruits, and cereals; a moderate to high intake of fish; a low intake of saturated fats but a high intake of unsaturated fats, particularly olive oil; a low intake of dairy and meat; and a moderate intake of alcohol, mostly in the form of wine.

    According to current evidence, such a diet may be beneficial to one's health.

    Over 74,000 healthy men and women aged 60 and up from nine European countries took part in the study. Diet, lifestyle, medical history, smoking, levels of physical activity, and other relevant factors were all recorded. A recognized scoring scale was used to assess adherence to a modified Mediterranean diet.

    A lower overall death rate was linked to a higher dietary score. A two-point increase resulted in an 8% reduction in mortality, while a three- or four-point increase resulted in an 11- or 14-percent reduction in total mortality, respectively.

    So, for example, a healthy 60-year-old man who follows his diet religiously (dietary score of 6-9) can expect to live one year longer than a man of the same age who does not.

    According to the authors, the link was strongest in Greece and Spain, owing to the fact that people in these countries eat a truly Mediterranean diet.

    They conclude that following a Mediterranean-style diet, which emphasizes plant foods and unsaturated fats, is linked to a significantly longer life expectancy, and may be especially beneficial for the elderly, who are a rapidly growing group in Europe.

4. The science behind the breast cancer protective effect of olive oil (the key ingredient in the Mediterranean diet).

    Researchers in the United States have discovered why the Mediterranean diet, which includes a lot of oleic acid-rich olive oil, appears to protect against breast cancer. They also discovered evidence that oleic acid might play a role in treatment in the future. The findings were published in the Annals of Oncology journal.

    In a series of laboratory experiments on breast cancer cell lines, the researchers found that oleic acid significantly reduces the levels of an oncogene known as Her-2/neu (also known as erb B-2). Over a fifth of breast cancer patients have high levels of Her-2/neu, which are linked to highly aggressive tumors with a poor prognosis.

    Other tests on cell lines revealed that oleic acid increased the effectiveness of trastuzumab (Herceptin), a monoclonal antibody treatment that targets the Her-2/neu gene and has helped to prolong the lives of many breast cancer patients.

    "Our findings underpin epidemiological studies that show that the Mediterranean diet has significant protective effects against cancer, heart disease, and aging," said lead researcher Dr. Javier Menendez, assistant professor at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago and research scientist with the Evanston Northwestern Healthcare Research Institute.

    Studies of southern European populations provide the strongest evidence that monounsaturated fatty acids like oleic acid may influence breast cancer risk, but animal research has yielded mixed results, possibly because olive oil has been administered as a mixture of several fatty acids and other natural protections rather than on its own.

    "To our knowledge, this is the first report that a dietary monounsaturated fatty acid previously suggested to be protective against breast cancer significantly reduces Her-2/neu expression, cutting it by up to 46%." Dr. Menendez stated, "Her-2/neu is one of the most important oncogenes in breast cancer." "Moreover, oleic acid's inhibition of Her-2/neu synergized with Herceptin-based immunotherapy in our tests, promoting the death of breast cancer cells with high levels of the oncogene."

    "In addition, we discovered that oleic acid increased the expression of a protein (p27Kip1), a tumor suppressor protein, which is implicated in the development of resistance to Herceptin treatment."

    Dr. Menendez said his findings should not only aid in understanding the molecular mechanisms by which individual dietary fatty acids regulate the malignant behavior of breast cancer cells, but they also suggested that dietary interventions based on oleic acid could delay or prevent Herceptin resistance in Her-2/neu-positive breast cancer patients.

3. Mediterranean diet may be effective in reducing metabolic syndrome and associated symptoms.

    In a study published in JAMA, Katherine Esposito, M.D., of the Second University of Naples in Italy, and colleagues demonstrated that a Mediterranean-style diet improved endothelial function and decreased vascular inflammatory markers in patients with the metabolic syndrome.

    According to the article's background information, the metabolic syndrome is a collection of risk factors for cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. According to recent estimates, the metabolic syndrome is extremely frequent in the United States, affecting approximately 24% of the adult population. It is clinically defined by abdominal obesity, atherogenic dyslipidemia (the creation of abnormally high levels of lipid deposits in the arteries), hypertension, and glucose intolerance. Although the metabolic syndrome has been highlighted as a target for dietary interventions aimed at lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease, the role of diet in contributing to the metabolic syndrome is little understood.

    Between June 2001 and January 2004, a randomized experiment was undertaken in a university hospital in Italy on 180 people with the metabolic syndrome (99 males and 81 women). Patients in the intervention group (n=90) were instructed to adopt a Mediterranean-style diet and were given explicit instructions on how to boost daily consumption of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and olive oil; patients in the control group (n=90) ate normally (carbohydrates, 50 percent-60 percent; proteins, 15 percent-20 percent; total fat, less than 30 percent).

    After two years, the researchers discovered that patients in the Mediterranean diet intervention group experienced significant reductions in body weight, blood pressure, glucose, insulin, total cholesterol, and triglycerides, as well as significant increases in high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, all of which were greater than those in the control group. Interleukins 6 (IL-6), 7 (IL-7), and 18 (IL-18) serum concentrations, as well as high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hs-CRP) concentrations, were significantly decreased in patients in the intervention group compared to those in the control group. The intervention group's endothelial function score improved, but remained unchanged in the control group. Forty individuals on the intervention diet retained metabolic syndrome characteristics, compared to 78 patients on the control diet. Participants who adhered to the intervention diet demonstrated a decrease in the number of syndrome components, nearly halving the overall prevalence of the metabolic syndrome.

    "To our knowledge, the findings of this study are the first demonstration that a Mediterranean-style diet rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, walnuts, and olive oil may be effective in lowering both the prevalence of metabolic syndrome and its associated cardiovascular risk," the authors conclude.

2. Mediterranean diet and healthy lifestyle linked to reduced mortality.

    A study published in JAMA found that those aged 70 to 90 who ate a Mediterranean-style diet and exercised regularly had a 50% reduced death rate than those who did not.

According to the article's background information, older adults should embrace food and lifestyle behaviors that reduce their risk of illness-related death and maximize their chances of healthy aging. But few studies have examined these aspects together.

    A Mediterranean diet (rich in plant foods and fish, low in meat and dairy, and high in monounsaturated to polyunsaturated fatty acids) and moderate alcohol use were found to reduce all-cause and cause-specific death in European elderly individuals. HALE (Healthy Ageing: A Longitudinal Study in Europe) was undertaken between 1988 and 2000 and included participants from SENECA and the Finland, Italy, Netherlands, Elderly (FINE) investigations. Men and women aged 70 to 90 from 11 European nations were included.

    The Mediterranean diet was linked to a 23% reduction in all-cause mortality, moderate alcohol use to a 22% reduction, physical activity to a 37% reduction, and nonsmoking to a 35% reduction. Those for coronary heart disease, cardiovascular disease, and cancer were similar. Having all four low-risk factors reduced death rates by 66%. Failure to follow this low-risk pattern was linked to 60% of all deaths, 64% of coronary heart disease deaths, 61% of cardiovascular diseases, and 60% of cancer deaths.

1. The Mediterranean diet may help Asians with coronary artery disease.

    A study published in The LANCET suggests that a Mediterranean-style diet may help prevent cardiovascular disease in Asian populations, particularly those living in Western countries.

    A serious public health issue in South Asia, coronary artery disease (CAD) is not explained by conventional risk factors such as high blood pressure or cholesterol levels. The Mediterranean diet is abundant in alpha-linolenic acid, according to the American Heart Association.

    Drs. RB Singh and Elliot Berry of the Hebrew University Hadassah Medical School in Jerusalem, Israel, and their colleagues conducted a randomized experiment on 1000 patients with CAD (including angina, heart attack, and diabetes). The alpha-linolenic acid-rich diet included whole grains, fruits, vegetables, walnuts, and almonds; the control diet included traditional Asian foods. The main analysis occurred two years after the study began.

    After two years of follow-up, patients on the increased (Indo-Mediterranean) diet received half the daily intake of alpha-linolenic acid. The improved diet also reduced sudden cardiac mortality and non-fatal heart attacks.

    Elliot Berry says: "In a non-Western population, we found that a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, and mustard or soybean oil reduced CAD morbidity and mortality over two years, without increasing non-cardiac fatalities, and improved metabolic profiles. The long-term gains may be substantially greater."

Olivia Rossi

After learning about healthy food the hard way (my own health issues made me) - now I'm a huge advocate of the healthiest lifestyle possible for myself and everyone around me.

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