The Mediterranean Diet, a style of eating that relies on mostly less-processed plant-based foods, has been showing its health benefits in research for decades. Recent studies confirm the good news, and add some new good news as well.
Improved heart health for women
A recent study of more than 720,000 women, published in the BMJ journal Heart, found that women who chose the Mediterranean Diet had a 24% lower risk of cardiovascular disease and a 23% lower chance of mortality overall.
Men and women have different experiences when it comes to heart health, and this is the first large-scale study that looked specifically at women’s outcomes. While all the subjects in the study were women, the group included women of different ethnic backgrounds.
Reduced chances of dementia
BMC Medicine reports that people who stick closer to the Mediterranean Diet have a 23% lower chance of dementia than those who do not. A long-term study of 60,298 people in the UK found that after nine years, the connection was clear even when they controlled for genetic markers of dementia.
The researchers acknowledged that previous studies of the effects of the Mediterranean Diet on dementia risk were inconclusive. They believe that their study, which is much larger than previous studies, is more accurate for this reason.
Reduced prostate cancer risk
A study from the University of South Australia found a lower risk of prostate cancer in men who followed the Mediterranean Diet. The study focused on lycopene and selenium, micronutrients that are particularly high in the Mediterranean diet.
While the researchers paid most attention to these two substances, which can be found in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, they recommended that men take up the Mediterranean Diet to reduce their chances of prostate cancer.
Good news for MS patients
A forthcoming study reports a 20% lower chance of cognitive disability in patients with multiple sclerosis who take up the Mediterranean Diet.
About half of people with MS face cognitive decline and memory loss. The new study found that subjects who adhered most closely to the Mediterranean Diet had significantly less cognitive impairment than those who followed it least closely.
What does it mean to talk about adhering closely to the Mediterranean Diet?
In most of these studies, the subjects were sorted out according to how closely they followed the Mediterranean Diet. That is, rather than dividing the groups of subjects into people who ate a Mediterranean Diet and those who did not, the researchers sorted the groups into those who typically ate the goods associated with the Mediterranean diet and those who followed it less closely. Some studies specified that subjects were sorted into quartiles — that is, four groups.
People who ate mostly fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and legumes with more fish and olive oil than red meat and butter would be following the Mediterranean Diet closely. Those who avoid fresh produce and make a point of eating meat and potatoes plus desserts would not align well with the Mediterranean Diet. Take a fun, nonscientific quiz to see how you stack up.
The science stacks up firmly on the side of the Mediterranean Diet. Try a few of our recipes featuring foods included in the Mediterranean Diet: