What are the virtues of the Mediterranean diet?


Characterized by an incredible richness in plants and significant moderation in animal products, the Mediterranean diet stands out today as the model to follow. Discover its secrets and, thanks to the advice of our experts, find the line and the form without sacrificing the pleasure.

The Mediterranean diet is full of promise. Also called the Cretan regime is mainly followed by the Greeks, Italians, and French residing in the south of the country. “This balanced and diversified diet ensures a sufficient intake of macronutrients and micronutrients,” states the dietitian Florence Foucault. Before adding:

The menu is simple:

  • A handful of vegetables
  • A piece of white meat or a portion of oily fish
  • A dash of olive oil
  • A few whole grains
  • A part of the fruit
  • A dairy product

All of these foods provide many general health benefits. If the benefits for cardiovascular health are well known, studies are unanimous on many other qualities.

The Mediterranean diet promotes weight regulation.

Several studies show this, including one published in April 2019 in the journal Obesity . While most of the work to date has relied on participants’ statements, researchers at the Wake Forest School of Medicine have spent a long time (38 months, the equivalent of 9 years for humans) experimenting on two groups of primates the effects of the Mediterranean diet compared to the Western model.

While the proposed diets contained the same number of calories, carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, the Mediterranean favored a lower weight and fat mass rate than the Western model. According to Prof. Shively, professor of comparative medicine at the Wake Forest School of Medicine, “this weight loss can be explained in particular by the fact that this diet rich in fiber , although tasty, encourages people to eat less because they regulate appetite more. than the Western diet rich in rapidly assimilated sugars. “

An opinion shared by Dr. Guy Avril, phytotherapist: “The quality of carbohydrates has a great influence on weight. There, the sources of carbohydrates are respectful of blood glucose, which improves satiety and protects against excessive fat storage. “

Another explanation is also advanced today: “Its richness in varied fibers and fermented dairy products has a positive impact on the intestinal microbiota, the impact of which is known on weight problems,” explains Dr. Lecerf, nutritionist at the ‘Institut Pasteur de Lille. Finally, ultra-processed products are absent, and sweet products are occasional.

Fill up on antioxidants against cellular aging.

The remarkable longevity of Mediterranean people has been known for a long time! The main explanation for this protective effect is the great wealth of antioxidant substances, fruits, and vegetables, olive oil, spices, which could delay the effects of aging.

In the Mediterranean diet, fruits and vegetables must be in season. “The fact of consuming the fruits and vegetables of the moment guarantees a maximum of vitamins and minerals,” explains Florence Foucault. And, importantly, the redder they are, the higher the concentration of antioxidants.

Fill up on protective fibers against certain diseases.

Another health advantage of fruits and vegetables: fiber. “A low consumption of fiber is associated with the appearance of certain cancers such as colon cancer . It is recommended to consume 30 grams per day, a means of effectively preventing the occurrence of colon cancer “emphasizes Florence Foucaut Fiber also helps reduce the absorption of cholesterol and glucose, an effective solution for controlling blood sugar levels and reducing the risk of developing diabetes.

The Cretan diet combines all the characteristics of an “anti-cancer” diet.

Little red meat, no processed foods or sugary products, a lot of fiber, a maximum of fruits and vegetables, spices and herbs… the Mediterranean diet combines all the foods recommended to prevent cancer. Thus, according to several studies, reducing the risk of ENT, digestive, breast, and endometrial cancers would be interesting.

How does the Cretan diet prevent diabetes? 

The Mediterranean diet won, in 2019, the title of best anti-diabetic diet in the ranking established by scientists for US News and World magazine! The PREDIMED study showed that for the two groups subjected to the Mediterranean diet, with olive oil for one, nuts for the other, the incidence of diabetes was reduced by 52%. . Here again, this protective effect could, in part, be linked to the presence of antioxidants which would help fight against inflammation, a factor, among others, of diabetes. Its richness in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and legumes and the low presence of sugary and processed products also play a significant role in preventing insulin resistance.

Omega to fight against AMD

A study published in 2018 by a team from Inserm in Bordeaux concludes that there is a 41% reduction in the risk of developing age-related macular degeneration  (AMD) in older adults who adhere to the Mediterranean diet.

Researchers explain this protective effect by its richness in fruits and vegetables rich in lutein and zeaxanthin, antioxidant pigments present in the retina, which filter blue light that is toxic to the eyes. The intake of omega-3 fatty acids of animal or plant origin, also current in greater quantity in the retina, is also mentioned.

Dairy products to strengthen bones

Other essential products of the Mediterranean diet: dairy products. These also provide many benefits. The intake of calcium and protein helps to fight against osteoporosis and strengthen bones. Naturally rich in probiotics, dairy products offer intestinal flora and act on the entire microbiota.

According to a 2007 article written by INRA researchers, the potential benefits of the Cretan diet on bone capital could also be explained by its richness in vitamins (B6, K, C, A, etc.) and minerals (potassium, etc.), its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant power and its contribution in phytoestrogens contained in certain legumes. 

A balanced diet for good brain health

This balanced diet which gives pride of place to antioxidants, would fight against the onset of neurodegenerative diseases (Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s). Precisely, it would help protect the brain against aging. In addition, it would also limit the cognitive decline of the brain by improving its faculties. 

Better thinking skills as you get older

Published at the end of 2020 in the journal Experimental Gerontology, a scientific study indicates that people who follow a Mediterranean-style diet are more likely to stay mentally sharp as the year’s pass ( release from researchers at the University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom). United). Thus, the people who adhered the most to the Mediterranean diet had the highest cognitive scores, even considering bias factors such as intelligence quotient during childhood, smoking, level of physical activity. Although minor, the mental differences were significant.

In detail, the food items most strongly associated with better cognitive scores were frequent consumption of green leafy vegetables and low consumption of red meat. While the study did not find any differences in participants’ brain structure depending on whether or not they adhered to the Mediterranean diet, the researchers believe that this diet may have real benefits on cognitive functioning as the years go by. More broadly, the study proves the importance of a healthy and balanced diet for mental health, thinking, memory. 

The Mediterranean diet has a positive effect on morale.

In a meta-analysis published at the end of 2018, researchers from Inserm and the University of Montpellier showed that adopting the Mediterranean diet reduced the risk of depression by 33%. This beneficial effect on mental health is linked to the anti-inflammatory properties of such a diet and its favorable action on the intestinal microbiota, the composition of which impacts the relationship between the brain and the intestine.

The Cretan diet, an ally against cardiovascular disease

Numerous studies have observed a link between the Mediterranean diet and improving the parameters linked to this risk, reducing cerebrovascular accidents and infarcts. One of the most recent, PREDIMED, compared the effects of three diets on 187 participants over 55 years at risk of cardiovascular disease: the first two groups were on a Mediterranean diet, one supplemented with olive oil. Olive (about 1 l per week), the other with the addition of nuts (30 g of walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts per day), and the third group to a diet low in fat.

At the end of the experiment, the participants in the first two groups saw their cardiovascular risk significantly drop, with significant regression of atherosclerosis. “We can invoke the richness in antioxidants with protective effects vis-à-vis the genesis of atheromatous plaque,” explains Dr. Lecerf. “We find other beneficial parameters such as the low consumption of saturated fats , salt and sugar and the importance given to fibers, unsaturated fats …” adds Dr. Lecerf.

The promising Mediterranean diet for men with erectile dysfunction

The importance of screening for high blood pressure in patients with erectile dysfunction, and vice versa, is now well established, with hypertensive men being more likely to suffer from erectile dysfunction. Starting from the observation that the Mediterranean diet is beneficial in preventing heart attacks in the event of cardiovascular risk, researchers wished to study its effects on these two simultaneous conditions. Their study, presented at the 2021 congress of the French Society of Cardiology,  consisted of evaluating adherence to the Mediterranean diet in 250 men suffering from hypertension and erectile dysfunction.

Researchers found that men with a higher Mediterranean diet score had higher testosterone reserve, better coronary flow, better erectile performance, and lower arterial stiffness. When the relationships were analyzed according to the physical condition of the participants, the researchers also found that patients with greater exercise capacity had better results in several areas: blood flow, testosterone levels, and lower arterial stiffness.

“In our study, consuming a Mediterranean diet was linked to better exercise capacity, healthier arteries and blood flow, higher testosterone levels and better erectile performance.”, Summarizes Dr. Athanasios Angelis, lead author of the study. Researchers hypothesize that this diet may improve physical condition and erectile performance by improving blood vessel function and limiting testosterone drop in mid-life men.

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