The Mediterranean diet is based on the healthy eating and lifestyle habits of the people living in southern Italy, the Greek island of Crete and other areas of Greece in the early 1960s. The diet is rich in heart-healthy fiber and nutrients, including omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants. The diet generally includes: fruits, vegetables and unsaturated "good" fats, particularly olive oil. Olive oil has been associated with benefits such as lower blood pressure and a lower risk for heart disease. In addition, olive oil may benefit people with type 2 diabetes.
In a new study, researchers analyzed food questionnaire data on 11,015 individuals from the SUN Project. Adherence to a Mediterranean diet was scored as low, low-moderate, moderate-high and high throughout the four year follow-up period. Quality of life was also evaluated through questionnaires.
The researchers found that adhering to the Mediterranean diet was significantly linked to increased mental and physical health, including social interactions and emotional health. The authors noted that individuals who began adhering to the Mediterranean diet after the start of the study saw significant improvements in their quality of life.
The authors concluded that maintaining a Mediterranean diet may be directly linked to better quality of life. Further well-designed clinical trials are necessary.
Dietary sources of omega-3 fatty acids include fish oil and certain plant and nut oils. Fish oil contains both docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), while some nuts (such as English walnuts) and vegetable oils (such as canola, soybean, flaxseed, linseed and olive oils) contain alpha-linolenic acid (ALA).
There is supportive evidence from multiple studies that suggests the intake of recommended amounts of DHA and EPA in the form of dietary fish or fish oil supplements lowers triglycerides; reduces the risk of death, heart attack, dangerous abnormal heart rhythms and strokes in people with known cardiovascular disease; slows the buildup of atherosclerotic plaques ("hardening of the arteries") and lowers blood pressure slightly. However, high doses may have harmful effects, such as an increased risk of bleeding. Although similar benefits have been proposed for alpha-linolenic acid, the scientific evidence is less compelling, and the beneficial effects may be less pronounced.
For more information about the Mediterranean diet, please visit Natural Standard's Health & Wellness Database.
For more information about the omega-3 fatty acids, please visit Natural Standard's Foods, Herbs & Supplements Database.