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  • Sticking to the Mediterranean diet was associated with a decreased risk of mortality, according to a new study.
  • The Mediterranean diet helps lower cardiometabolic risk factors, such as insulin resistance, BMI and blood pressure.
  • The diet includes high amounts of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and heart-healthy fats.

A new study showed higher adherence to the Mediterranean diet was linked with a reduced risk of all-cause mortality.

The findings were published in JAMA Network Open on May 31.

Researchers looked at health information from 25,315 women, which included blood samples, biomarker measurements, and dietary data between 1993 and 1996. These women were followed up for 25 years.

Results showed a 23% decrease in all-cause mortality risk, which may be partially explained by cardiometabolic risk factors. These include biomarkers of inflammation, insulin resistance, metabolism, and body mass index (BMI).

“When it comes to cardiovascular disease there are various risk factors which are modifiable – meaning we have control over them,” said Nicole Roach, a registered dietitian at Northwell Lenox Hill Hospital. “Diet is a major modifiable risk favor.”

To address cardiovascular disease, often times the Mediterranean diet will be recommended. There are several benefits to following a Mediterranean diet.

  • Lowering “bad cholesterol.” The Mediterranean diet avoids food rich in saturated fat, this can help lower our LDL Cholesterol, often known as “Bad Cholesterol.”
  • A Mediterranean diet can also help raise our “Good Cholesterol,” otherwise known as HDL.
  • This diet may promote weight loss by encouraging healthier, more nutritious food choices. However, it can also help maintain a healthy weight if you are not looking to lose weight.
  • This diet may help lower blood pressure by avoiding processed foods, which often contain high sodium levels due to added salt.
  • Following a Mediterranean diet can also help increase fiber intake as this diet is rich in whole fruits and vegetables. Fiber supports bowel movements and gut health, helps maintain blood sugars within targeted goals, and helps promote satiety, which can aid in weight loss or maintenance.
  • Choosing foods known to have anti-inflammatory properties may help decrease overall inflammation within the body. Decreased inflammation is beneficial to the heart and reduces the risk for various types of cancer.
  • May be helpful for mood, cognitive function, and healthy brain aging.

“All of the above benefits of a Mediterranean diet can result in improved heart health as well as improved over all health,” Roach stated.

This study suggested that the diet helped reduce: inflammation, triglyceride-rich lipoproteins, insulin resistance, and body mass index. These factors likely contributed to why people with higher adherence to this diet had lower mortality risk.

The blood metabolites measured explained some of the effects of the Mediterranean diet on mortality.

“This included having lower molecules that are involved in inflammation and lipids that cause deposits in arteries that can lead to heart disease,” Dr. Marie-Pierre St-Onge, associate professor of nutritional medicine at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, stated. “Lower blood pressure and better glucose control also contribute to the reduced risk of mortality.”

John Higgins, MD, a sports cardiologist at UTHealth Houston, agreed.

“Improved cardiovascular risk factors (blood pressure, cholesterol, blood glucose) as well as improved vascular function, improved coagulation profile, and less chance of an angry plaque (lower inflammatory markers) would result in lower rates of cardiovascular events (heart attack, stroke, peripheral arterial disease),” Higgins said.

In the current study, researchers found that improvements in measures of blood pressure, HDL and LDL cholesterol, and blood glucose control, such as hemoglobin A1C, were not as strongly associated with reduced mortality risk from adherence to the Mediterranean diet as some other biomarkers. However, they did acknowledge that previous studies have reported such associations.

More specifically, the researchers found biomarkers of metabolism and inflammation, triglyceride-rich lipoproteins, insulin resistance, and body mass index may contribute the most to the reduced mortality risk associated with the Mediterranean diet.

“The Mediterranean diet is rich in many nutrients and dietary components like polyphenols, that have anti-inflammatory properties,” said St-Onge. “It is high in fiber and low in sugar, which contribute to better glucose control, and is low in saturated [fat] while being higher in monounsaturated fat, which are known to produce [a] better lipid profile with lower LDL cholesterol and triglycerides and higher HDL cholesterol.”

The foundations of the Mediterranean diet include fatty fish, nuts, extra virgin olive oil, legumes, vegetables and fruit.

Julia Zumpano a registered dietitian with the Cleveland Clinic Center for Human Nutrition, said foods high in omega 3 fatty acids such as certain fish, walnuts, flax seeds and chia seeds when combined with foods that reduce inflammation, such as legumes, fruits and vegetables, “have been shown to reduce blood sugars, reduce insulin, improve gut health and regularity.”

Zumpano recommends eating grains that are whole grains, in addition to minimally processed foods. Zumpano recommends avoiding commercial baked goods, sugar-sweetened beverages or processed meats, which have been shown to increase inflammation, blood sugars, triglycerides, weight and risk of chronic diseases.

A new study found that sticking to the Mediterranean diet was linked with a decreased risk of all-cause mortality in women.

The Mediterranean diet may help reduce cardiometabolic risk factors, such as insulin resistance, BMI, and inflammation.

There are other factors that need to be taken into consideration which are family history, exercise habits and lifestyle.