The benefits of mediterranean diet on health

November 27, 2023

The Mediterranean Diet, a dietary pattern inspired by the traditional eating habits of Southern Europe, is receiving growing recognition for its many health benefits. This article seeks to shed light on how incorporating the Mediterranean diet into your daily regimen can significantly improve your health and reduce the risk of numerous diseases.

The Mediterranean Diet: An Overview

The Mediterranean diet is not a specific diet plan but, rather, a collection of eating habits traditionally followed in countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea, such as Italy, Spain, and Greece. This dietary pattern is characterized by high consumption of plant-based foods — fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains. It encourages moderate consumption of dairy products and fish, relatively low intake of meat, and a focus on healthy fats such as olive oil. Moreover, it includes a moderate intake of wine, mainly during meals.

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The Heart Health Benefits of the Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean diet has gained significant attention within the scholar community and the broader public due to its remarkable heart health benefits. This dietary pattern has been linked to a lower risk of heart disease, one of the leading causes of death worldwide.

A extensive study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, available on Google Scholar and Crossref, found that people at high cardiovascular risk who followed a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil or nuts had a lower risk of major cardiovascular events than those who were advised a reduced-fat diet[^1^]. This suggests that high-unsaturated-fat diets can be beneficial when the fat sources are plant-based.

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[^1^]: Estruch R, Ros E, Salas-Salvadó J, et al. Primary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease with a Mediterranean Diet Supplemented with Extra-Virgin Olive Oil or Nuts. N Engl J Med 2018;378:e34. DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa1800389.

The Mediterranean Diet and Cancer Prevention

Research has also highlighted the potential of the Mediterranean diet in cancer prevention. A meta-analysis of studies, available through Google Scholar, revealed a significant reduction in the risk of developing cancer among those who adhered closely to the Mediterranean diet[^2^]. Specifically, the findings suggested that the diet could protect against cancers of the breast, digestive tract, and, to a lesser extent, prostate and lung.

[^2^]: Schwingshackl L, Schwedhelm C, Galbete C, Hoffmann G. Adherence to Mediterranean Diet and Risk of Cancer: An Updated Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Nutrients. 2017;9(10):1063. doi: 10.3390/nu9101063.

The Role of the Mediterranean Diet in Weight Management

The Mediterranean diet has shown promising results in weight management. Unlike restrictive diet plans, it emphasizes the consumption of nutrient-rich, whole foods and encourages physical activity, leading to sustainable weight loss and maintenance.

A study published in the journal ‘Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology’ found that overweight individuals who followed the Mediterranean diet lost more weight and experienced better improvements in heart disease risk factors than those on a low-fat diet[^3^].

[^3^]: Shai I, Schwarzfuchs D, Henkin Y, et al. Weight loss with a low-carbohydrate, Mediterranean, or low-fat diet. N Engl J Med. 2008;359(3):229-41. doi: 10.1056/NEJMoa0708681.

The Mediterranean Diet for Overall Health

Beyond its benefits for heart health, cancer prevention, and weight management, the Mediterranean diet has been associated with a host of other health advantages. Research has linked this dietary pattern to lower risks of type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol levels[^4^]. Additionally, it has been suggested to improve longevity and cognitive function, further emphasizing the holistic health benefits of the Mediterranean diet.

[^4^]: Davis C, Bryan J, Hodgson J, Murphy K. Definition of the Mediterranean Diet; A Literature Review. Nutrients. 2015;7(11):9139–9153. doi:10.3390/nu7115459.

This diet, therefore, serves as a comprehensive approach to health, intertwining the pleasure of savouring diverse, fresh foods with the science of reducing disease risk and promoting overall well-being.

The Mediterranean Diet and Diabetes Prevention

The Mediterranean diet extends its health benefits to diabetes prevention as well. This diet pattern, rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats, has been found to have a significant effect on type 2 diabetes prevention and management.

Research available on Google Scholar, indicates that this diet can lower insulin resistance and prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes. A comprehensive study observed that high adherence to the Mediterranean diet resulted in a significant reduction in the risk of developing type 2 diabetes[^5^]. The study further emphasized the role of extra virgin olive oil, a cornerstone of the Mediterranean diet, in improving insulin sensitivity.

The Mediterranean diet, with its focus on a balanced and varied nutrient intake, provides a non-restrictive dietary approach for diabetes management. Its emphasis on low-glycemic foods, such as whole grains and legumes, helps in stabilizing blood sugar levels. Additionally, the diet’s healthy fats, predominantly monounsaturated fatty acids from olive oil and omega-3 fatty acids from fish, have anti-inflammatory effects that may improve glycemic control.

[^5^]: Romaguera D, Guevara M, Norat T, et al. Mediterranean diet and type 2 diabetes risk in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) study: the InterAct project. Diabetes Care. 2011;34(9):1913-8. doi: 10.2337/dc11-0891.

The Mediterranean Diet: A Sustainable Approach to Healthy Eating

One of the most significant advantages of the Mediterranean diet is its sustainability. Unlike many diet plans which require strict calorie counting or eliminate entire food groups, the Mediterranean diet is a lifestyle approach. It encourages enjoying meals with family and friends, savoring a variety of foods, and staying physically active.

This diet is easy to adhere to, as it does not involve restrictive rules or complicated meal plans. Instead, it promotes a balanced intake of nutrient-dense foods, mindful eating, and regular physical activity. The emphasis on fresh, seasonally available, and locally sourced foods makes it an environmentally conscious choice as well.


On a concluding note, the Mediterranean diet offers a plethora of health benefits. From its preventative effects against heart disease and type 2 diabetes to its role in weight management and cancer prevention, this traditional diet stands out as a holistic and sustainable approach to healthy eating.

The key to the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet lies in the quality and variety of foods consumed. The regular intake of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats from olive oil and fish, combined with moderate consumption of dairy and wine, offers a balanced and complete nutritional profile. It’s a diet pattern that emphasizes not just what we eat, but how we eat — slowly, with enjoyment, and in the company of others.

Looking at the evidence, it’s clear that adopting the Mediterranean diet can lead to significant improvements in health and well-being. It’s not just a diet — it’s a lifestyle that promotes longevity and quality of life. Whether you’re looking to reduce your risk of disease, manage your weight, or simply improve your overall health, the Mediterranean diet is a proven and delicious way to achieve your goals.

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