Study Supports Heart Benefits from Mediterranean Diet
By Stephanie August 7, 11:00 AM
Observing the Mediterranean diet
Before this new study, most previous research on the Mediterranean diet involved what are called ecological studies, or observational studies. In the 1950s and 1960s, nutrition research pioneer Ancel Keys and his colleagues conducted ecological studies. They studied eating patterns in 16 different populations in seven countries. The researchers observed that people living in Crete, other parts of Greece, and southern Italy tended to live longer than others in the study and had lower rates of heart disease and some cancers.
Keys was convinced that the regional diet, dubbed the Mediterranean diet, was an important reason for the good health in those populations. Keys and his wife, Margaret, promoted the Mediterranean diet in a series of best-selling books. His efforts on diet and health were highlighted in a cover story in Time magazine.
2. Helps you live longer
The closer an individual follows the Mediterranean diet, the longer they live, even if they do not live in a country in the Mediterranean region. This has been shown by numerous studies, and most recently by the European Prospective Investigation of Cancer (EPIC), in which researchers gathered information on the nutritional habits of 74607 people from 9 countries.
The participants were graded according to how closely they followed the Mediterranean diet. For every 2 point increase there was an 8 percent decrease in mortality.
3. Protects from Diabetes
The Mediterranean diet is a moderate carbohydrate diet with a high intake of fiber, complex carbohydrates, fruits and vegetables, and has been shown that it can lower the risk of type II diabetes.
A review of studies by Austrian researchers found a 19% reduction of risk of diabetes with adherence to a Mediterranean diet.
4. Keeps Cancer Away
The traditional Mediterranean diet is rich in substances that have protective effects such as selenium, vitamin E and C, omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, antioxidants such as polyphenols from olive oil and resveratrol from wine. All these nutrients are associated with a lower risk of cancer, particularly prostate and colon cancer.
A large meta-analysis conducted by German researchers that included 83 studies (over 2 million participants) provided important evidence of the beneficial effect of high adherence to a Mediterranean diet in regards to prevention and overall cancer risk and specific types of cancer, especially colorectal cancer.
5. It can keep you thin
With 40 percent of calories coming from fat it is expected that this diet can be fattening. However, a Spanish study analyzed data from 3162 people and assessed their diets based on the frequency of consumption of foods associated with the Mediterranean diet.
A high score meant that they followed the diet closely. The results showed that a higher score was associated with a lower body weight. Another study associated adherence to the Mediterranean diet with less body fat.
6. Good for Your Brain
The study, led by the University of California at San Francisco, on over 6,000 people found that participants who stuck to a Mediterranean style diet for over a year had a 30-35 % less chance scoring low on cognitive tests. These tests include memory, attention-speed and more.
This protective benefit was even seen with individuals who modestly followed the diet. These results were independent of factors like smoking, exercise, overall health, and socio-economic status
7. It is Easy to Follow
While this may not be a direct health benefit, the truth is that a diet is good only if you follow it. A Mediterranean diet is a naturally occurring diet based on the circumstances at the time… and people made it work. So for example, since they did not have the luxury of eating meat often, they made sure that foods that they did have available were delicious.
The abundance of crave-worthy vegetable dishes in the Mediterranean diet, makes it so easy to eat healthy. The food is simple to prepare and using locality and seasonality as your guide makes everything easy.
A good “diet” should keep you healthy and happy. An extremely strict diet or a diet based on all sorts of pre-packaged foods is not healthy, fun or sustainable