Nearly 50 million Americans have metabolic syndrome, a cluster of risk factors placing them at increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
In a review paper, Mohsen Meydani, DVM, PhD, director of the Vascular Biology Laboratory at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, explores the potential benefits, beyond those achieved with weight loss alone, of a Mediterranean-style diet for patients with metabolic syndrome.
"Consuming a Mediterranean-style diet rich in olive oil, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and nuts may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease in patients with metabolic syndrome," says Meydani, who is also a professor at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts. "Evidence suggests that this effect may be due to actions on two of the integral components of cardiovascular disease - inflammation and dysfunction of the cells lining the inner surfaces of blood vessels."
Meydani focuses on the results of a two-year intervention trial conducted in Italy. Subjects were divided into two groups. Both groups lost modest amounts of weight while following reduced-calorie diets and exercising, but the group eating a Mediterranean-style diet had greater improvements in several components of the metabolic syndrome, such as total cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood sugar.
Metabolic syndrome is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and death, but these outcomes can be prevented through early detection and modification of risk factors.
"Although caloric restriction and body weight reduction remain a primary approach for treating metabolic syndrome patients, intervention with a Mediterranean-style diet combined with moderate exercise might be a strategy to enhance the cardiovascular benefits of weight loss," Meydani concludes.