05 February 2014

Huge benefits of Mediterranean-style diet

A study done with a group of Midwestern fire-fighters showed that a Mediterranean-style diet lowered their risk factors for cardiovascular disease.


Among a large group of Midwestern fire-fighters, greater adherence to Mediterranean-style diet was associated with lower risk factors for cardiovascular disease (CVD), according to a new study led by researchers from Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) and Cambridge Health Alliance (CHA).

The study is the first to assess the effects of Mediterranean-style diet among a group of young, working US adults.

"Our study adds more evidence showing the health benefits of a Mediterranean diet, even after adjusting for exercise and body weight," said Stefano's Kales, associate professor in the Department of Environmental Health at HSPH and chief of occupational and environmental medicine at CHA.

US fire-fighters are known to have a high prevalence of obesity and risk factors for CVD.

What is a Mediterranean diet?

A Mediterranean diet, rich in fish, nuts, vegetables, and fruits, has been shown in previous studies to lower risk of CVD.

Read: More info on the Mediterranean diet

However, those studies have primarily been conducted among older people, those with existing health conditions, and among Mediterranean populations.

The researchers analysed medical and lifestyle data, including dietary habits, from an existing cohort of 780 male fire-fighters in the Midwest. They developed a modified Mediterranean diet score (mMDS) to assess the participants' dietary patterns.

Metabolic syndrome

The fire-fighter group with greatest adherence to Mediterranean-style diet showed a 35% decreased risk in metabolic syndrome, a condition with risk factors that include a large waistline, high triglyceride level, low HDL ("good") cholesterol level, high blood pressure, and high blood sugar.

The group with the highest mMDS also had a 43% lower risk of weight gain compared with the lowest mMDS group. Additionally, greater adherence to a Mediterranean-style diet was significantly associated with higher HDL cholesterol and lower LDL ("bad") cholesterol.

Read: Mediterranean diet tied to sustainable weight loss

Consistent with previous investigations, obese participants in the fire-fighter study reported a higher intake of both fast foods and sugary drinks.

The study shows that promoting Mediterranean-style diets could have significant health benefits for young, working populations. "The logical next steps from our investigation are studies using the workplace to specifically promote Mediterranean dietary habits among fire-fighters and other US workers," said Justin Yang, lead author of the study and a post-doctoral fellow at HSPH.

Read more:

Mediterranean diet benefits heart

Mediterranean diet can ward off heart disease

Mediterranean diet helps heart disease


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