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More Evidence the Mediterranean Diet Is Good for Heart Health

Reduced Risk of Metabolic Syndrome

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Updated January 31, 2014

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A Mediterranean diet is also associated with a reduced risk of metabolic syndrome.

Brian Hagiwara/Photolibrary/Getty Images

Several studies have suggested that a Mediterranean diet - a diet high in fruits and vegetables, whole-grain cereals, and low-fat dairy products, with fish, poultry, nuts, and legumes as the chief protein sources - is good for heart health. A study appearing in a 2011 issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology suggests that a Mediterranean diet is also associated with a reduced risk of metabolic syndrome.

Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of risk factors (including glucose intolerance, obesity, hypertension, high triglycerides and low HDL cholesterol) that greatly increases one's risk of developing heart disease.

In the 2011 report, investigators performed a meta-analysis which included results from 50 clinical studies that had enrolled more than 500,000 individuals. They found that people who ate a Mediterranean diet had a 31% reduced risk of developing metabolic syndrome. Furthermore, the individual components of metabolic syndrome (waist circumference, glucose levels, lipids and blood pressure) were each significantly better in those on a Mediterranean diet.

In summary, this recent study adds more credence to the idea that the longstanding controversy regarding "low-fat vs. low-carb" is finally resolving into the conclusion that neither extreme is completely right or completely wrong. Rather, a diet that incorporates good fats and good carbs (and avoids bad fats and bad carbs) actually appears to be optimal for heart health. And of all the popular diets being advanced these days, the Mediterranean diet appears to come the closest to embodying those healthful elements.

Sources:

Kastorini CM, Milionis HJ, Esposito K, et al. The effect of Mediterranean diet on metabolic syndrome and its components. J Am Coll Cardiol 2011; 57:1299-313.

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