Studies continue to demonstrate the health benefits of a Mediterranean diet

Sources: New England Journal of Medicine, CNN, Thorax, Time Magazine


Health practitioners have been paying increased attention to what’s known as a Mediterranean diet as more studies continue to demonstrate its wide-reaching health benefits, including cardiovascular health and healthy lung function.

The Mediterranean diet, marked by a high intake of healthy fats found in extra-virgin olive oil and fish, fruits, vegetables, and only occasional consumption of dairy products, meat, and sweets, and earns its name from its popularity in countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea.

Previous studies have established the heart health benefits of the diet, which has been ranked as the diet most likely to protect people from coronary heart disease. A new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine explores the results of a trial that compared the cardiovascular benefits of an extra-virgin olive oil heavy Mediterranean diet (meaning participants consumed approximately one liter of the oil a week), a nut-heavy Mediterranean diet (where participants consumed approximately 30 ounces of a combination of walnuts, hazelnuts and almonds each week), and a standard low-fat diet. Participants were issued no caloric restriction or promotion of physical activity.

Both Mediterranean diet groups resulted in “a substantial reduction in the risk of major cardiovascular events among high-risk persons,” with slightly increased risk reduction in the extra-virgin olive oil heavy group. The study also confirms previous research findings that suggest a traditional low-fat Western diet does not produce cardiovascular benefits.

Another study in the journal Thorax found that children who consume a Mediterranean diet tend to exhibit a lower risk for wheezing and asthma. Conversely, the authors did find a correlation between tri-weekly consumption of hamburgers and elevated risk for asthma, which may also suggest that certain diet elements can represent lifestyle elements that may also be at play in health issues.