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
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.
is a Mediterranean diet?
A Mediterranean diet, rich in fish, nuts,
vegetables, and fruits, has been shown in previous studies to lower risk of
Read: More info on the Mediterranean diet
However, those studies have primarily been
conducted among older people, those with existing health conditions, and among
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.
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.
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