Researchers explore link between Mediterranean diet and health

A colorful produce stand at a local farmer's market includes includes red, green, purple, and yellow vegetables.

Researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston found participants in the Women’s Health Study, an observational study of 25,000 female healthcare providers, who were overweight and followed a Mediterranean diet had a 30% reduced risk for developing diabetes 20 years later. The study, published in JAMA Network Open, aimed to see if and how a Mediterranean diet reduced diabetes risk. To assess the latter, the researchers analyzed markers of metabolic health, such as how the body breaks down and processes energy.

Women in the study who followed a Mediterranean-style diet, rich in vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts, and seeds, with moderate amounts of fish and dairy products, had differences in body weight and with some biomarkers of diabetes, such as insulin resistance and inflammation. The authors believe these changes helped modify diabetes risk. However, more research is necessary to determine the effects of a Mediterranean diet on a population-wide scale.

Researchers from Maine and Australia conducted a similar study in New York, but assessed how a Mediterranean-style diet affects blood pressure. They found adults who followed a Mediterranean diet could lower blood pressure by a few points. They note the findings may not seem significant from a clinical perspective, but could have a public health impact. For every 2 mm Hg reduction in systolic blood pressure, the top number that measures blood force against artery walls as the heart beats, the projected population risk of cardiovascular disease falls 10 percent. Both studies were partially supported by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.