My go-to dial-up, dial-down approach to food and lifestyle
The Mediterranean Diet is clinically proven to reduce the risk of chronic disease and improve longevity – read why it’s one of the best bases for healthy food and lifestyle choices.
By Neil Bridgeman
Sept 26, 2021 • 6 min read
Think of it less like a diet (it’s not a word I like anyhow) and more like a way of life. And while that may sound weird and cultish, the Mediterranean diet has stood the test of time thanks to its balanced, fadl-ess approach to eating and living. Ketogenic, paleo, paleo-keto, keto-tarian diets will come and they will go, but mark my words, the Mediterranean-way (much nicer than ‘diet’) provides a flexible and malleable approach to eating and living that delivers the goods over the long-term.
You don’t need to live in the rolling hills of Tuscany to embrace the principles of the Mediterranean-way. The guidance is simple:
– Predominantly plant-based – rich in vegetables, fruit, nuts, legumes
– Unrefined cereals and seeds
– Liberal use of extra virgin olive oil
– Minimal consumption of processed foods
– Daily dairy, preferably fermented
– Plenty of physical activity
– Communal dining is encouraged
– Sweets are discouraged – naturally sweet foods like honey are preferred
– Red meat in low amounts
– Wine in low to moderate amounts, normally with meals
Life is about effort versus reward, what you put in, you get back, right? So how does a Mediterranean-style approach to food and lifestyle stack up? The diet itself is one of the most clinically studied and holds up to some heavy duty scrutiny. It is associated with a reduction in the incidence of;
– Cardiovascular events like heart attack and stroke
– Breast cancer
– Type II diabetes and insulin resistance
– Obesity, metabolic syndrome
– Rheumatoid arthritis
– Frailty risk
– Inflammatory bowel disease
– Overall mortality
Equally, it has been linked with reduced biomarkers like:
– Systolic blood pressure
– Lipid levels (i.e. specifically LDL cholesterol – the so-called ‘bad’ kind)
– Elevated blood glucose and insulin levels
– C-reactive protein (an indicator of systemic inflammation)
– Oxidation levels
So how does it do this? It comes down to some simple functions within the body that enable its powerhouse of benefits.
A Mediterranean style of eating and living offers an abundance of micronutrients, omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, prebiotic sources and polyphenols which play important antioxidant and anti-inflammatory roles – all have beneficial effects on down-regulating the inflammatory cascade within our body. It fundamentally places us in an anti-inflammatory state of zen.
It slows cognitive decline, reduces the risk of neurological degeneration associated with Alzheimer’s Disease, reduces risk of Alzheimer’s Disease overall, and decreases all-cause mortality in Alzheimer’s patients. It also lowers pre-dementia symptoms and its progression to overt dementia. How? Amongst a number of mechanisms, the polyphenols (found in extra-virgin olive oil) have been found to increase the expression of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) to support beneficial neurogenesis.
Studies even support the use of the diet as adjunctive therapy in moderate to severe depression and as a preventative – with a 40% lower prevalence of depression in those who have adopted a Mediterranean style diet, especially when including nuts and seeds.
Rheumatoid arthritis (an auto-immune condition) patients experience reduced inflammation, increased physical function and improved vitality after 12 weeks on a predominantly plant-based Mediterranean style diet supplemented with moderate amounts of fish, poultry, low use of red meat, dairy, small amounts of red wine, as well as extra virgin olive oil as the main source of fats.
Are you sold? I hope so. It really is such an easy dial up, dial down guide for eating and living. It can easily flex to support vegan or vegetarian preferences. You can pull down the carbohydrate levels to support weight management, you can dial up the fiber to support all manner of conditions and in a clinical setting it provides a manageable, long-term dietary foundation that is easy to follow and integrate into busy lives and lifestyles.
It will be and has been my go-to personally and for clients…and I don’t see that changing anytime soon.
Aridi, Y. Walker, J. Roura, E. et al. (2020) “Adherence to the Mediterranean Diet and Chronic Disease in Australia: National Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey Analysis” Nutrients, 12 (5), pp. 1251
Boccardi, V. Calvani, R. Limongi F. et al. (2018) “Consensus paper on the “executive summary of the international conference on Mediterranean diet and health: a lifelong approach” an Italian initiative supported by the Mediterranean Diet Foundation and the Menarini Foundation” Nutrition, 51 (52), pp. 38-45
Estruch, R., Ros, E., Salas-Salvadó, J. (2018) “Primary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease with a Mediterranean Diet Supplemented with Extra-Virgin Olive Oil or Nuts” The New England Journal of Medicine, 378 (25),pp. e34
Gomez-Pinilla, F. & Nguyen, T. (2012) “Natural mood foods: the actions of polyphenols against psychiatric and cognitive disorders” Nutrional Neuroscience, 15 (3), pp. 127-133
Jacka, F. O’Neil, A. Opie, R. et al. (2017) “A randomised controlled trial of dietary improvement for adults with major depression (the ‘SMILES’ trial)” BMC Medicine, 15 (1), pp. 23
Opie, R. O’Neil, A. Itsiopoulos, C. et al. (2015) “The impact of whole-of-diet interventions on depression and anxiety: a systematic review of randomised controlled trials” Public Health Nutrition, 18 (11), pp. 2074–2093
Romagnolo, D. & Selmin, O. (2017) “Mediterranean Diet and Prevention of Chronic Diseases” Nutrition Today, 52 (5), pp. 208-222
Sánchez-Villegas, A. Martínez-González, M. Estruch, R. et al. (2013) “Mediterranean dietary pattern and depression: the PREDIMED randomized trial” BMC Medicine, 11, pp. 208
Yannakoulia, M. Kontogianni, M. & Scarmeas, N. (2015) “Cognitive health and Mediterranean diet: just diet or lifestyle pattern?” Ageing Research Reviews, 20, pp. 74–78
DISCLAIMER: The information provided on this website is for informational purposes only and should not be used for diagnosis. It is not intended as a substitute for advice from your GP or other qualified health practitioner.