What is the Mediterranean diet pattern?
If you have ever wanted to change your diet and have been paying attention to world of healthy eating, you have probably heard of Mediterranean diet. Contrary to what you may be thinking, this is NOT another fad diet. Based on the traditional eating habits of the lands surrounding the Mediterranean Sea such as Greece, Italy, and Spain, this dietary pattern focuses on healthy plant-based foods such as fruit, vegetables, wholegrains, and legumes along with moderate consumption of meat, dairy, and healthy fats. (Aridi, Walker & Wright, 2017)
Health benefits backed by science
During the mid-20th century, the bordering countries of the Mediterranean Sea were found to have lower rates of chronic disease and a higher life expectancy despite the limited access to healthcare (Aridi, Walker & Wright, 2017). Since then, a number of studies have validated the positive effects of this dietary pattern, including reduced cardiovascular risk and mortality (Martínez-González et al, 2019). For example, a 12-year study with 26,000 participants who followed the Mediterranean diet demonstrated a 25% reduced risk of developing cardiovascular disease (Martínez-González et al, 2019).
Additionally, the Mediterranean diet provides an improvement in nutritional quality and has been found to aid in weight loss and diabetes management (Schwingshackl et al, 2015). More recently, interest has peaked around the positive impact of the Mediterranean diet on cognitive function and overall longevity (Aridi, Walker & Wright, 2017). The authors of this study speculated that the high antioxidant capacity of the diet, which promoted the ability to fight cellular stress and inflammation to negate the shortening of telomeres in the cell which are related to aging. Research gathered from another study conducted with 4676 participants found that those who followed this eating pattern closely were found to have longer telomere lengths (Crous-Bou et al, 2014).
- Adherence to the Mediterranean diet and risk of diabetes: a systematic review and meta-analysis
Schwingshackl, Lukas, Missbach, Benjamin, König, Jürgen, & Hoffmann, Georg. (2015). Adherence to a Mediterranean diet and risk of diabetes: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Public Health Nutrition, 18(7), 1292–1299. https://doi.org/10.1017/S1368980014001542
- The association between the Mediterranean Dietary Pattern and Cognitive Health: A systematic Review
Aridi, Y. S., Walker, J. L., & Wright, O. (2017). The Association between the Mediterranean Dietary Pattern and Cognitive Health: A Systematic Review. Nutrients, 9(7), 674. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu9070674
- The Mediterranean Diet and Cardiovascular Health
Martínez-González, Miguel A, Gea, Alfredo, & Ruiz-Canela, Miguel. (2019). The Mediterranean Diet and Cardiovascular Health: A Critical Review. Circulation Research, 124(5), 779–798. https://doi.org/10.1161/CIRCRESAHA.118.313348
- Mediterranean diet and telomere length in Nurses’ Health Study: population based cohort study
Crous-Bou, Marta, Fung, Teresa T, Prescott, Jennifer, Julin, Bettina, Du, Mengmeng, Sun, Qi, Rexrode, Kathryn M, Hu, Frank B, & De Vivo, Immaculata. (2014). Mediterranean diet and telomere length in Nurses’ Health Study: population based cohort study. BMJ : British Medical Journal, 349(dec02 5), g6674–g6674. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.g6674