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A Metabolic Syndrome Diet

Filled with nature’s bounty of fresh and wholesome foods, the Mediterranean diet has been proven to reduce the risk of and control a number of health conditions, including metabolic syndrome.


Tying with the DASH diet, the Mediterranean diet takes first place! The ranking is among the best diets overall chronicled by U.S. News & World Report.

Filled with nature’s bounty of fresh and wholesome foods, the Mediterranean diet has proven itself. What’s more, the diet can reduce the risk of and control a number of health conditions, including metabolic syndrome.

And according to the International Diabetes Federation, a quarter of the world’s adults have metabolic syndrome! The need to for its reduction is apparent, but what treatments are evident?

According to researchers, adopting a Mediterranean diet may lessen metabolic syndrome risk.

What Is Metabolic Syndrome?

Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of conditions shown to increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.

The National Cholesterol Education Adult Treatment Panel (ATP) III provides diagnostic criteria for metabolic syndrome. A diagnosis is made if three or more of the five components are present:

• Fasting Glucose: > 100 mg/dL
• High Triglycerides (Hypertriglyceridemia): >150 mg/dL
• High-Density Lipoprotein (HDL): < 50 mg/dL for females and < 40 mg/dL for males
• Blood Pressure: > 130/85 mmHg
• Waist Circumference: > 35 for females and 40 for males

Over one third of all U.S. adults have metabolic syndrome. The condition is most commonly caused by overweight and obesity. Greater access to high-energy foods, lack of physical activity, and genetic factors increase the risk of metabolic syndrome, too.

That being said, reducing the risk of and reversing metabolic syndrome results from regular exercise and an adequate diet. In fact, a Mediterranean diet has proven beneficial for metabolic syndrome.

Mediterranean Diet & Metabolic Syndrome

The Mediterranean diet encourages whole, plant-based foods and healthy fat sources. Healthy fats specifically include monounsaturated fat and omega-3 fatty acids, all of which are considered to be anti-inflammatory nutrients.

A further breakdown includes whole grains, cereals, fruits and veggies, legumes, nuts and seeds, olive and canola oils. Fresh herbs and spices are also used to offer extra nutrients and flavor without the need of salt.

The diet also supports fish and lean poultry at least twice a week. Dairy products and red wine are encouraged in moderation, with a low consumption of red meats.

Beyond the diet itself, a Mediterranean lifestyle also encourages eating meals with family and friends. One should also be active on a regular basis.

Compelling and supporting evidence assigns the Mediterranean diet as a prominent treatment option for reversing metabolic syndrome.

Exhibit A:
Researchers of the PREDIMED (Prevención con Dieta Mediterránea) Study recruited a total of 1224 participant. They aimed to determine the efficacy of the Mediterranean Diet on the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease.

The participants were randomized to follow one of three diets:

1. Low-fat diet (control group)
2. Mediterranean diet supplemented with nuts (MedDiet + VOO)
3. Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil (MedDiet + nuts)

All diets were ad libitum, having the food available at all times, and there was no increase in physical activity.

One-year prevalence was reduced by 6.7%, 13.7%, and 2.0% in the MedDiet + VOO, MedDiet + nuts, and control diet groups, respectively. Conclusion traditional Mediterranean diet enriched with nuts could be a useful tool to manage metabolic syndrome.

Exhibit B:
Almost five years later, researchers followed up with the PREDIMED study participants. They found metabolic syndrome developed in 50 percent of the participants who did not have the condition at baseline.

The risk of developing metabolic syndrome did not differ between participants assigned to any of the diets. However, about 28 percent of those who had metabolic syndrome at baseline reversed it!

Furthermore, the group receiving olive oil showed significant decreases in both central obesity and high fasting glucose. Participants supplemented with nuts also showed a significant decrease in central obesity.

The conclusion?

A Mediterranean diet supplemented with either extra virgin olive oil or nuts is not associated with the onset of metabolic syndrome. However, such diets are more likely to reverse the condition.

Specifically, a Mediterranean diet without calorie restriction may be useful in reducing the risks of central obesity and high blood glucose. This occurred specifically in people at higher risk of cardiovascular disease.

Exhibit C:
A more recent meta-analysis published in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition investigated 11 qualified studies. Researchers found individuals who adhered most to the diet had a lower risk and mortality from cardiovascular disease.

Additionally, the most protective effects are associated to higher consumption of olive oil, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts. Moderate intake of wine, especially red wine, also protected from heart disease.

Nutrition & A Metabolic Syndrome Diet

Researchers still aim to pinpoint the exact mechanisms. However, there is no denying what is already known about the components of the Mediterranean diet are momentous.

Healthy Fat
For instance, diets rich in saturated and trans fats often lead to a myriad of health concerns. But following a higher-fat Mediterranean diet has shown to be extremely beneficial to health.

Unsaturated fats are effective in the prevention and management of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and other chronic conditions.

Common staples of healthy fats include avocados, nuts and seeds, olive and canola oil, and fatty fish.

Dietary Fiber
The high-fiber from whole, plant-based foods has shown to facilitate and maintain healthy weight statuses. In turn, the risk of weight-related health concerns is reduced.

Unmanaged and elevated cholesterol increases the risk of heart disease. Consuming soluble fiber works to reduce cholesterol levels and keep them within a healthy range.

General fiber recommendations vary between genders – 38 grams per day for men and 25 grams per day for women. Meet these numbers by including more whole grains, fruits, veggies, and legumes.

Heart-Healthy Minerals
The various vitamins and minerals of fresh fruits and vegetables can also innately reduce high blood pressure. These include potassium, magnesium, and calcium.

For instance, potassium is an essential mineral and electrolyte that has a documented role in hypertension prevention.

To meet mineral requirements, eat a variety of veggies from all subgroups, including dark green, red and orange, beans and peas. Also choose whole fruits over juices for added fiber and to keep calories and sugars in check.

Using fresh herbs and spices also naturally limits salt need while offering flavor to dishes.

And for those vinos, a recent study indicates the resveratrol of red wine may improve blood vessel health. The research indicated individuals with type 2 diabetes had lessened artery stiffness, which lowers the risk of heart attack and stroke.

Resveratrol has high therapeutic potential for treating cardiovascular diseases, suggests research published in Molecular Aspects of Medicine. Likewise, a meta-analysis reveals resveratrol significantly improved the fasting plasma glucose and insulin levels in individuals with type 2 diabetes. Resveratrol may also help reverse insulin resistance, a condition that increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Other foods with resveratrol include red grapes, berries, and peanuts, in which resveratrol is concentrated in the skin. Resveratrol is also manufactured in supplemental form.

Written By Sarah Asay, RDN. Published on November 07, 2012. Updated on May 09, 2019.


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