BistroMD Health Library

Get excited about reading again with fun and interesting tips from our experts, including The M.D., our dietitians, and our fitness expert. In our health library, you will find all of the information you need to achieve your goals of making a healthy lifestyle change. So, start reading and start losing!

A Mediterranean Diet May Reverse Metabolic Syndrome

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 among the best diets overall rankings chronicled by U.S. News & World Report.

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.

What Is Metabolic Syndrome?

Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of conditions shown to increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. Based on the National Cholesterol Education Adult Treatment Panel (ATP) III diagnosis criteria, metabolic syndrome includes three or more of the five components in adults:

• 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, which is most commonly caused by overweight and obesity, greater availability to high-energy foods, lack of physical activity, and genetic factors.

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 to be a diet for metabolic syndrome.

The Mediterranean Diet for Metabolic Syndrome

The Mediterranean diet is characterized by a high consumption of fruits, veggies, whole grains, legumes, fish, with a reduced consumption of red meat (until just recently) and dairy products and moderate intake of alcohol, primarily red wine.

There is a large pool of compelling and supporting evidence assigning the Mediterranean diet is a prominent treatment option for reversing metabolic syndrome.

Exhibit A

Researchers of the PREDIMED (Prevención con Dieta Mediterránea) Study recruited a total of 1224 participants 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: a low-fat diet, a Mediterranean diet supplemented with nuts, or a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil.

Ultimately, the researchers discovered traditional Mediterranean diet enriched with nuts could be a useful tool in the management of the metabolic syndrome.

Exhibit B

An almost five year follow-up of the PREDIMED study found metabolic syndrome developed in 50 percent of the participants who did not have the condition at baseline.

However, while the risk of developing metabolic syndrome did not differ between participants assigned to the low-fat diet and those assigned to either of the Mediterranean diets, 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, while participants supplemented with nuts 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, but such diets are more likely to cause reversion of the condition. More specifically, an energy-unrestricted Mediterranean diet may be useful in reducing the risks of central obesity and hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) in people at high risk of cardiovascular disease.

Exhibit C

A more recent meta-analysis published in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition investigated 11 qualified studies to identify the link between compliance to a Mediterranean diet and cardiovascular disease risk.

Researchers found individuals adhering the most to the diet had a lower risk and mortality from cardiovascular disease compared to those least adherent.

Additionally, the most protective effects are associated to higher consumption of olive oil, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and moderate intake of wine (especially red wine).

The Contributing Components of a Metabolic Syndrome Diet

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

For instance, while diets rich in saturated and trans fats can lead to a myriad of health concerns, following a higher-fat Mediterranean diet has shown to be extremely beneficial to health. The emphasis of unsaturated fatty acids in the Mediterranean diet have shown to be effective in the prevention and management of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and other chronic conditions. Common staples of the healthy fat include avocados, nuts and seeds, olive and canola oil, and fatty fish.

Furthermore, the high-fiber from whole, plant-based foods has shown to facilitate and maintain healthy weight statuses, thus lowering the risk of weight-related health concerns.

The various vitamins and minerals of fresh fruits and vegetables can also innately reduce high blood pressure, along with the natural limitation of salt by using fresh herbs and spices to flavor dishes.

And for those vinos and lovers of the finer things in life, a recent study indicates the resveratrol of red wine may improve blood vessel health in individuals with type 2 diabetes by lessening artery stiffness, which lowers the risk of heart attack and stroke.

Start Your Diet Today!

Reality Check - Your Free Diet Analysis

Simply answer a few questions so we can figure out your weight loss goals and provide solutions for a lighter, healthier you. Our weight loss meal plans are designed to help real people achieve real and lasting success.

as seen on...   

join our free newsletter

Get free support to help you lose weight and be healthy with our Weekly Dish on Health.

stay connected