Amid all the special diets percolating in popular culture–South Beach, Atkins, even the cabbage soup diet–the Mediterranean diet has emerged as one of the healthiest.

The best way to lose weight and keep it off is to adopt a healthy lifestyle you can maintain for the rest of your life. And the Mediterranean diet, with its focus on fresh fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, nuts, and fish, allows just that. It makes eating simple, delicious, and provides a host of health benefits researchers are just beginning to unravel.

1. Improved health later in life

A study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine analyzed health data for nearly 11,000 women, mostly in their late 50s. Researchers tracked their mental and physical health for 15 years and found that women who ate a Mediterranean-style diet were 40% more likely to live beyond age 70 than the other women. The women were also less likely to suffer from chronic diseases, have physical disabilities, or impaired brain functioning.

2. Reduced risk of cancer

Multiple studies have shown that a diet chock full of fruits and vegetables, nuts, and healthy proteins helps protect against certain types of cancer. Researchers have begun studying the Mediterranean diet specifically and found promising results.

The diet may reduce the risk of colon cancer, according to a study published in the European Journal of Epidemiology. Breast cancer risk may also fall significantly for Mediterranean-diet followers, notes another study, published in the journal BMC Cancer. The diet may also lower risk of skin cancer, particularly melanoma, according to a study published in Nutrition Review. The micronutrients contained in the diet’s healthy foods could help protect the skin from sun damage, according to the study.

3. Protection from arthritis

The Mediterranean diet’s heavy use of olive oil could protect cartilage from breaking down, in turn preventing arthritis, according to a study published in The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry. Olive oil helps to prevent inflammation and keeps joints lubricated.

4. Lowered blood pressure

The Mediterranean diet offers more protection against high blood pressure than a low-fat diet, according to a study published in The American Journal of Medicine. The study reviewed people who were either overweight or obese, who ate either a low-fat or Mediterranean diet. Researchers found the latter group lost more weight, had a lower body mass index, improved blood sugar control, and lower blood pressure.

5. Reduced diabetes risk

Researchers studied Spanish patients aged 55 to 80 who didn’t have diabetes but were at high cardiovascular risk. The results, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, found that 16% of study participants on the Mediterranean diet developed diabetes compared to nearly 24% of participants eating a typical low fat diet.

6. Prevents cardiovascular disease and stroke

A study published in the New England Medical Journal showed the Mediterranean diet lowered a high-risk person’s chances of cardiovascular disease by 30%, along with stroke risk reduction.

Have you ever tried the Mediterranean diet? 

Image by Susan Lucas Hoffman via Flickr


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