Mediterranean Diet Reduces Risk of Metabolic
TUESDAY, March 8 (HealthDay News) -- The Mediterranean diet,
long known to be heart-healthy, also reduces the risk of metabolic
syndrome, a cluster of risk factors that boost the risk of heart
disease, stroke and diabetes, according to a new review.
Researchers from Greece and Italy reviewed the results of 50
published studies with a total of more than 500,000 participants as
part of a meta-analysis -- a statistical analysis of the findings
of similar studies -- on the Mediterranean diet.
Among their findings: the natural foods-based diet is associated
with a lower risk of hikes in blood pressure, blood sugar and
triglycerides, as well as a reduced risk of a drop in good
cholesterol -- all of which are risk factors in metabolic
"It is one of the first times in the literature, maybe the first, that someone looks through a meta-analysis at the cardiovascular disease risk factors and not only the hard outcome" of heart disease and other conditions, said Dr. Demosthenes Panagiotakos, an associate professor at Harokopio University of Athens in Greece.
The study is published in the March 15 issue of the
Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
The Mediterranean diet is a pattern marked by daily consumption
of fruits, vegetables, whole grain cereals, and low-fat dairy
products; weekly consumption of fish, poultry, tree nuts, and
legumes; high consumption of monounsaturated fatty acids, primarily
from olives and olive oils; and a moderate daily consumption of
wine or other alcoholic beverages, normally with meals. Red meat
intake and processed foods are kept to a minimum.
Metabolic syndrome -- increasingly common in the United States
-- occurs if someone has three or more of the following five
conditions: blood pressure equal to or higher than 130/85, fasting
blood glucose equal to or higher than 100 mg/dL, a waist measuring
35 inches or more in women and 40 inches or more in men, a HDL
("good") cholesterol under 40 in men and under 50 in women,
triglycerides equal to or higher than 150 mg/dL.
In the review, Panagiotakos and his team found the Mediterranean
diet "is strongly associated with decreased metabolic syndrome
risk," declining to pinpoint an exact percentage because the data
would not fully support it.
The research team also noted that further study was needed, as a
few of the studies reviewed also included interventions such as
physical activity and smoking cessation.
The findings come as no surprise, said Dr. Ronald Goldberg,
professor of medicine at the Diabetes Research Institute,
University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, who reviewed the
findings. Since many studies have confirmed the role of the
Mediterranean diet on reducing heart disease, he noted, it makes
sense that the diet would also reduce the risks that lead up to
But since Americans are fond of processed and fast foods, how
willing would they be to adopt the diet? "Not particularly,"
Goldberg acknowledged. But, he added, nutrition experts,
recognizing that reluctance, have recently begun efforts to adapt
the diet to different cultures -- for example, including many
traditional Hispanic foods into a Mediterranean diet adapted for
those of Hispanic descent.
By doing so, the diet not only provides the same nutrients as
the Mediterranean diet, but the familiar food of one's ethnicity,
Panagiotakos says even U.S. fast-food-lovers can eat more like
Mediterranean's. "Even in fast-food, we can introduce healthy
eating, like salads, fruits and vegetables, cereals and legumes,
and use good sources of fat. We can replace burgers with all these
products -- it is a matter of nutrition education."
To learn more about metabolic syndrome visit the
U.S. National Institutes of Health.
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