The study has established that a Mediterranean diet loaded with fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, whole grains, olive oil, fish, little red meat and wine protects against cardiovascular risk factors like large waistline, disturbing cholesterol levels, hypertension and diabetes.
The benefits of Mediterranean-style diet are documented in several previous researches, but all those studies have looked at the diet’s effects on older people. The latest study, on the other hand, has assessed the effects of Mediterranean-style diet among a group of young, working adults in the United States.
In a bid to determine whether Mediterranean-style diet offers some protection against CVD risk factors, researchers from Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) and Cambridge Health Alliance (CHA) analyzed medical and lifestyle data from an existing cohort of 780 male firefighters from 11 fire departments in two Midwestern states.
The research team developed a modified Mediterranean diet score (mMDS) to analyze Mediterranean diet eating patterns in the young firefighters. Using the mMDS system, the researchers gathered information about participants’ weight changes over the past five years, and collected data on their cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar levels.
After adjusting for body weight and exercise, it was noted that the male firefighters who strictly adhered to the Mediterranean-style diet were 35 percent less likely to develop metabolic syndrome, a condition with such risk factors as a large waistline, high triglyceride level, low HDL (“good”) cholesterol level, hypertension, and high blood sugar.
This group also had a 43 percent lower risk of weight gain compared to those who reported least adherence to Mediterranean-style diet. In addition, strong adherence to a Mediterranean-style diet was significantly associated with higher levels of HDL (“good”) cholesterol and lower levels of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol.
“Our study adds more evidence showing the health benefits of a Mediterranean diet, even after adjusting for exercise and body weight,” said Stefanos Kales, associate professor in the Department of Environmental Health at HSPH and chief of occupational and environmental medicine at CHA.
The authors of the study said their latest findings suggest that promoting Mediterranean-style diets could prove significantly beneficial for the health of young, working populations.
“The logical next steps from our investigation are studies using the workplace to specifically promote Mediterranean dietary habits among firefighters and other U.S. workers,” said lead researcher Justin Yang, who reported their findings online Feb. 4 in the journal PLoS One.