Statistical analysis highlights the benefits of Mediterranean Diet on emotional well-being

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In a recent study published in Nutrients, a group of researchers investigated the relationship between adherence to the Mediterranean Diet (MD), subjective well-being (SWB), and various socioeconomic factors among adults in Greece and Cyprus. 

Study: Exploring the Relationship between Mediterranean Diet Adherence and Subjective Well-Being among Greek and Cypriot Adults. Image Credit: monticello/Shutterstock.comStudy: Exploring the Relationship between Mediterranean Diet Adherence and Subjective Well-Being among Greek and Cypriot Adults. Image Credit: monticello/Shutterstock.com

Background 

The traditional MD, recognized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), emphasizes plant-based foods and minimal processing. It is linked to reduced mortality and lower rates of chronic diseases such as cardiovascular issues and diabetes.

Recent studies suggest that adherence to the MD enhances SWB, attributing better quality of life to its high antioxidant and nutrient content. However, a shift toward Western dietary patterns is noted in Mediterranean regions like Greece and Cyprus, affecting health outcomes.

Further research is needed to understand better the complex interactions between diet, cultural factors, and SWB, and to address the inconsistencies found in existing studies.

About the study 

The present study employed a cross-sectional design to explore correlations among MD adherence, SWB, and socioeconomic factors in Greece and Cyprus.

Participants completed the questionnaire online, which included the 14-item Mediterranean Diet Adherence Screener (MEDAS) score for assessing diet adherence, and a series of validated questions targeting SWB and emotional states.

These included assessments of life satisfaction, anxiety, and energy levels, utilizing a combination of Likert-type scales and multiple-choice questions.

The Ethics Committee of Research at the Democritus University of Thrace and the Cyprus Bioethics Committee granted the study's ethical approval, ensuring it follows European data protection regulations.

The questionnaire was distributed in Greece following verification of the translation's accuracy in a pilot sample. Recruitment was achieved through mailing lists, social media, and word-of-mouth, with confidentiality and anonymity maintained throughout.

Using a snowball sampling method, data collection took place via Google Forms from April 2019 until the end of 2020, just before the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) lockdowns.

Statistical analyses were conducted using SPSS, incorporating both parametric and non-parametric tests based on the data's distribution, adhering to a 5% significance level.

Study results 

The study initially collected 965 responses, from which 29 were excluded due to non-compliance with inclusion criteria, resulting in 936 valid responses for analysis.

The data underwent normalization checks via the Shapiro-Wilk test, with results suggesting an unusual distribution for several variables. Consequently, non-parametric tests like the Mann-Whitney U test and Kruskal-Wallis one-way ANOVA were utilized.

Demographic analysis revealed that the majority of respondents from both Greece and Cyprus were female, with average ages of 35.1 and 38.7 years, respectively. Income levels were categorized into low, medium, and high groups, reflecting the economic diversity of the sample.

Most respondents held higher education degrees and were in stable relationships, with a significant proportion being employed.

Health-wise, about 23% of respondents smoked, and over 40% were classified as overweight or obese. Notably, the majority of respondents scored within the medium range for adherence to the MD.

The study further examined the impact of MD adherence levels on SWB. Different levels of MD adherence (low, medium, high) showed statistically significant associations with SWB indicators such as life satisfaction, happiness, feelings of worry, tiredness, and depression.

Higher adherence levels were linked to more positive SWB outcomes and, interestingly, to healthier body mass index (BMI) values.

Principal Component Analysis (PCA) of SWB items identified key factors such as life satisfaction, happiness, and emotional well-being, which explained a significant portion of the variance within the responses.

These factors displayed notable differences in SWB responses based on the level of MD adherence, emphasizing the diet’s potential impact on emotional states.

A more detailed analysis using the Kruskal-Wallis test highlighted significant differences in SWB across the different MD adherence groups. Higher adherence was consistently associated with better SWB outcomes.

Furthermore, lifestyle factors such as smoking status and physical activity also showed correlations with SWB. Regular physical activity and non-smoking were linked to higher SWB scores.

Conclusions 

In the study, higher adherence to the MD was significantly associated with enhanced SWB, manifesting in increased happiness, life satisfaction, and reduced negative feelings like worry and depression.

The research also underscored the positive impact of lifestyle habits such as spending time with friends and family, enjoying nature, engaging in physical activities, and non-smoking on SWB.

These findings, consistent with prior research, highlight the complex interplay of diet, lifestyle, and cultural factors in influencing well-being.

Journal reference:
Vijay Kumar Malesu

Written by

Vijay Kumar Malesu

Vijay holds a Ph.D. in Biotechnology and possesses a deep passion for microbiology. His academic journey has allowed him to delve deeper into understanding the intricate world of microorganisms. Through his research and studies, he has gained expertise in various aspects of microbiology, which includes microbial genetics, microbial physiology, and microbial ecology. Vijay has six years of scientific research experience at renowned research institutes such as the Indian Council for Agricultural Research and KIIT University. He has worked on diverse projects in microbiology, biopolymers, and drug delivery. His contributions to these areas have provided him with a comprehensive understanding of the subject matter and the ability to tackle complex research challenges.    

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