The health benefits of the Mediterranean diet have been cited in numerous studies, and now with a new large study confirming that it protects from metabolic syndrome we have yet another reason to adopt this style of eating. But why is this latest study important? We asked Dr. Antonis Pothoulakis, an interventional cardiologist at the Iasis Clinic in Chania, Crete to comment.
Pothoulakis explained that the metabolic syndrome is a combination of abdominal obesity, high blood pressure, abnormal cholesterol, and high blood sugar. “Metabolic syndrome is connected to the obesity epidemic of our time, a big belly poisons our metabolism and a poisoned metabolism can result in type 2 diabetes, heart attacks, stroke, or sudden death,” he says.
The new study included data from almost 535,000 people, with the conclusion that a Mediterranean style diet, which includes consumption of monounsaturated fats mainly in the form of olive oil, daily consumption of fruits, vegetables, whole grain cereals, and low-fat dairy products, weekly consumption of ﬁsh, poultry, legumes, and a relatively low consumption of red meat, may reduce the risk of metabolic syndrome.
Pothoulakis noted that following the Mediterranean diet led to a small but statistically significant reduction of metabolic syndrome and improvement in all its individual components (waist circumference, blood pressure, high blood sugar, low HDL and high triglycerides).
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“As these are average figures it means that some individuals following the Mediterranean diet could get larger improvements and some less or no improvement. But considering the enormity of the obesity and metabolic syndrome problem, it is definitely worthwhile adopting the diet and olive oil, with their anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties,” he stressed.
Pothoulakis believes that the latest findings are great news for both the Mediterranean diet and olive oil. “The studies selected were of very good quality and the researchers used much “harder”, that is scientifically more accurate, end-points such as waist circumference, blood pressure and blood sugar,” he noted.
However, Pothoulakis pointed out, the Mediterranean diet and olive oil use alone cannot protect us against heart attacks and stroke. “We also need to modify the other two, very important lifestyle behaviors; smoking and exercise, as well as implement early and aggressive treatment of high blood pressure, abnormal cholesterol and high blood sugar,” he says.