A study investigating diet and risk of Metabolic Syndrome has found that a Mediterranean diet is very good for your health. Metabolic Syndrome is a name given to a group of risk factors that can lead to heart attacks, strokes, and diabetes. The research evaluated 12 studies, finding that the diet reduced the risk of developing the syndrome. So the rumors are true, eat Italian to live longer.
Metabolic vs Mediterranean
The team evaluated pre-existing research using defined rules. Overall, 12 studies made the grade. With 33,847 patients reviewed, a total of 6432 were found to have metabolic syndrome. Waist circumference (related to the risk of intraabdominal fat and disease,) blood pressure and blood fat content were all lower in those eating a Mediterranean diet.
Waist circumference, a measure of obesity, is directly related to the level of intra-abdominal (internal) fat. This fat is linked to colon, breast and prostate cancers, diabetes, gallbladder disease, heart disease, stroke, osteoarthritis, high blood pressure, gout and also liver disease.
Hypertension, or ‘high blood pressure’ is linked to cardiovascular disease and stroke. High blood fat (the kind measured in this study) is also associated with heart disease and strokes. Together the combination of the obesity, high blood pressure, and high blood fat are recipe for disaster.
It seems that the Mediterranean diet combats all three.
What is a Mediterranean diet
A Mediterranean diet is one derived from the local flora and fauna of the Mediterranean basin. Long associated with long life, the science has caught up with myth. The diet is primarily based on an abundance of plant based foods, fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains and nuts. Limiting red meat, replacing utter with olive or canola oil, eating fish and chicken twice a week and using herbs to flavour instead of salt. Crucially, red wine in moderation is not ruled out.
Making a change to this diet might be tricky, as Western food is often high in refined carbohydrates, salt, sugar and fat. But the evidence shows that you will be around longer to celebrate.
Trusted Medicine Education: What is Meta-analysis?
It is easy to get confused in the world of research. Very colloquial terms such as ‘observational study (aren’t all studies observed?!), confidence interval an extraneous variable often hinder rather than help. Beneath the vernacular lies reason, all these terms help scientists to weigh the research on how much it can be trusted. Believe it or not, there is a strict hierarchy of ‘trust’, where anecdotal reports form the base and meta-analysis the peak.
A ‘meta-analysis’ is commonly held as ‘reliable research’. A study will set an agreed number of rules on which data is reviewed, with ‘outcome measures’ (i.e what the study investigates) decided early. Studies are reviewed based on their strengths and weaknesses, complex statistical analysis applied to compare conclusions, and the final result subjected to rigorous scrutiny. The analysis tries to make sense of a multitude of research, and a good meta-analysis is usually well respected.
A common criticism of meta-analysis is the ‘trash in, trash out’ argument. If the research term picks a poor set of outcome measures or poor studies, the resulting conclusions will be very poor. It is for this reason that any meta-analysis is subject to high levels of discussion.
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Any opinions above are the author’s alone and may not represent those of his/her affiliations. Any comment is based on the best available evidence at the time of writing. All data is based on externally validated studies unless expressed otherwise. Novel data is representative of the sample surveyed. An online recommendation is no substitute for seeing your own doctor and should not be taken as medical advice.
Sources and Further Reading
Adherence to the Mediterranean diet is inversely associated with metabolic syndrome occurrence: a
- Godos J, et al (2016) Adherence to the Mediterranean diet is inversely associated with metabolic syndrome occurrence: a meta-analysis of observational studies ‘International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition’ 68:2 (http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/09637486.2016.1221900)
- Shuster A, et al (2012) The clinical importance of visceral adiposity: a critical review of methods for visceral adipose tissue analysis ‘Br J Radiol 2012 85(1009)(https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3473928/)
- Marchesini G, et al (2008) Obesity-associated liver disease ‘J Clin Endocrinol Metab’ 93:11 (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18987273) (Obesity and Liver disease)
- https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/ms (Metabolic Syndrome)
- http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/mediterranean-diet/art-20047801 (Mediterranean Diet)
- https://medlineplus.gov/obesity.html (Obesity)
- http://www.webmd.com/diet/obesity/obesity-health-risks (Obesity and Health Risk)
- http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/150496.php (Colon Cancer information)
- https://www.cancer.gov/types/breast (Breast Cancer Information)
- https://www.cancer.org/cancer/prostate-cancer.html (Prostate Cancer Information)
- https://medlineplus.gov/diabetes.html (Information on Diabetes)
- https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18987273 (Information on Gall Bladder Disease)
- http://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/ (Information on Heart Disease)
- http://www.stroke.org/understand-stroke/what-stroke (Information on Stroke)
- http://www.arthritis.org/about-arthritis/types/osteoarthritis/ (Information on Osteoarthritis)
- http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Blood-pressure-(high)/Pages/Introduction.aspx (Information on High Blood Pressure)
- http://www.webmd.com/arthritis/tc/gout-topic-overview (Information on Gout)
- http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/fatty-liver-disease/Pages/Introduction.aspx (Information on Liver Obesity-related Liver disease)
- https://trustedmedicine.net/2017/05/18/drop-the-sausage-and-save-the-world/ (Information on the benefits of limiting red meat intake)