You’ve probably heard that the Mediterranean diet is said to be one of the healthiest in the world, but what does the science say about its potential benefits? Decades of research has shown that following the Mediterranean Diet can help us live longer, healthier lives. If you’re wondering why, read on.
The Mediterranean diet based on the traditional cuisine of Italy, Greece and other countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea. It’s a primarily plant-based approach, with the preferred animal protein being fish and seafood. The Mediterranean diet is rich in whole grains, olive oil, fruits, vegetables, beans and other legumes, nuts, herbs and spices. It also encourages moderate red wine consumption and a reduction in processed foods.
Here we’ve rounded up seven scientifically proven benefits of the Mediterranean diet. And if after reading this article you decide to try this diet, be sure to read ours Simple Mediterranean Diet Plan for useful tips and advice.
1. It can help you live longer
The Mediterranean diet may hold one of the keys to longevity and slower aging in centenarians. Many studies (opens in new tab) have shown that older people who stick to this diet are more likely to live longer.
There is also evidence that following a Mediterranean diet may help seniors maintain their strength and mobility. Frailty is a syndrome that combines the effects of natural aging with the consequences of multiple chronic diseases and a loss of physical fitness. It can significantly impair the quality of life in old age. And according to a meta-analysis published in The Journal of Nutrition, Health and Aging (opens in new tab)higher adherence to the Mediterranean diet is associated with a lower risk of frailty.
2. Reduces your risk of cardiovascular disease
The most well-known benefit of the Mediterranean diet—and the best-researched—is its impact on cardiovascular health. This could be partly attributed to the effect it has on the endothelium: the cells that line the inside of our blood vessels. According to a published review Journal of Nutrition (opens in new tab)Mediterranean diets help improve endothelial function, which in turn prevents cholesterol plaques from building up in the arteries.
Several studies (opens in new tab) have shown that this diet pattern can protect against coronary heart disease and stroke. There are also proof (opens in new tab) that it may lower our risk of heart failure.
3. May prevent cognitive decline and dementia
Better brain health as you age is another potential benefit of the Mediterranean diet. Many studies (opens in new tab) have shown how this dietary pattern may contribute to better cognitive function and reduced risk of cognitive decline in healthy older adults. In addition, there is compelling evidence that the Mediterranean diet can help prevent it Alzheimer’s diseaseas described in Journal of Clinical Medicine (opens in new tab). In Alzheimer’s disease, abnormal proteins called amyloids form plaques that disrupt communication between them neurons. That is why they are used as biomarkers for this serious disease.
4. Helps to lose weight
The Mediterranean diet is not only healthy, but can also help you lose weight. A calorie deficit is the main principle behind weight maintenance, and the Mediterranean diet naturally includes many low-calorie foods.
A 2020 PREDIMED Plus study (opens in new tab) followed 6,355 overweight participants on their weight loss journey. Researchers found that those who adhered to the Mediterranean diet the most also had the best weight-loss results. There is also evidence that this eating pattern can be a great weight maintenance strategy. According to a study published in British Journal of Nutrition (opens in new tab), higher adherence to the Mediterranean diet was associated with a two-fold increased likelihood of maintaining weight over the long term. If you want to try it yourself, be sure to check out our guide on the Mediterranean diet for weight loss.
5. May Prevent Type 2 Diabetes
One of the lesser-known benefits of the Mediterranean diet is that it can help prevent and treat it Type 2 diabetes. As described in nutrient (opens in new tab) Journal, there are several ways this eating pattern may improve blood sugar levels, including high levels of anti-inflammatory compounds antioxidantsFoods with a low glycemic index (GI) and better gut health. According to a meta-analysis published in advances in nutrition (opens in new tab) Journal, even modest adherence to a Mediterranean diet could reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
6. May protect against cancer
According to that Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (opens in new tab)nearly one in 10 Americans will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lives. Cancer is also the second leading cause of death in the United States today. Although there are many types of cancer and contributing factors, a healthy diet consistently remains an important prevention strategy. Many studies specifically point to the Mediterranean diet as a way to avoid these serious diseases.
According to a published review European Journal of Nutrition (opens in new tab), higher adherence to the Mediterranean diet is associated with a lower risk of dying from cancer. It also significantly reduces the risk of developing colon, head, neck, respiratory, stomach, liver, and bladder cancers.
7. May Help Rheumatoid Arthritis
The Mediterranean diet could also bring benefits to those affected Rheumatoid arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease characterized by severe joint pain and stiffness, and for which there is no known cure.
One of the main characteristics of this disease is high levels of eicosanoids: compounds that promote inflammation. Several studies (opens in new tab) have shown that anti-inflammatory diets, including plant-based and Mediterranean-style eating patterns, are an effective way to reduce eicosanoid production and associated joint pain. According to scientists of International Rheumatology (opens in new tab) Journal, the Mediterranean diet may also help improve physical function in people with the condition.
This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide medical advice.