The Mediterranean diet can help reverse Metabolic Syndrome

Mediterranean diet cooking ingredientsNew research from the Canadian Medical Association Journal has found more evidence to support the benefits of the Mediterranean diet (fab – as my diet largely aligns with the Mediterranean way of eating and the diet includes a moderate amount of wine…win!).

On a more serious note, the research found that for people with existing metabolic syndrome, following a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil or nuts, may help to reverse the condition.

What is metabolic syndrome?

Metabolic syndrome describes a cluster of 3 or more related risk factors: central obesity, hypertension, hypertriglyceridemia, low plasma high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol levels and hyperglycemia. Having the syndrome increases a person’s risk for type 2 diabetes, CVD and morbidity. Alarmingly, approximately 25% of adults across the world have the syndrome.

The Study

A randomised controlled trial, which included men and women aged 55-80 years old at high risk of heart disease were randomly assigned to one of three diets: 1) a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil 2) a Mediterranean diet supplemented with nuts 3) or a low-fat diet as the control. In a secondary analysis, the research team looked at the long-term effects of the Mediterranean diet on metabolic syndrome in 5801 people, of which 64% (3707) of the participants had metabolic syndrome at the commencement of the study.

Findings

After follow up period of 4.8 years, the researchers found that people in the two Mediterranean diet groups (supplemented with olive oil and nuts) decreased their central obesity and blood glucose levels, and 958 participants (28.2%) no longer met the criteria of metabolic syndrome.

Of note, while the two Mediterranean diets were not associated with a reduced incidence of metabolic syndrome compared with a low-fat diet; both Mediterranean diets were associated with a significant rate of reversion of metabolic syndrome.

No between-group differences were identified in weight loss or energy expenditure leading the researchers to conclude that the change in prevalence is likely attributable to the difference in dietary patterns.

So what can we take from these findings?

An energy-unrestricted Mediterranean diet supplemented with either extra virgin olive oil or nuts may influence the reversion of Metabolic Syndrome, and be useful in reducing the risks of central obesity and hyperglycemia in people at high risk of cardiovascular disease.

What is the Mediterranean Diet?

The Mediterranean diet is not a “diet” per se. It was based on the dietary traditions of Crete, Greece and southern Italy circa 1960 at a time when the rates of chronic disease among populations there were among the lowest in the world, and adult life expectancy was among the highest even though medical services were limited.

How can I introduce the Mediterranean Diet?

  • Eat natural, unprocessed foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains and nuts.
  • Make olive oil your primary source of dietary fat
  • Reduce the consumption of red meat (Monthly)
  • Eat low to moderate amounts of fish (Weekly)
  • Drink a moderate amount of wine (up to one to two glasses per day for men and up to one glass per day for women)

You can access the full journal article here.