Translation: A Mediterranean-style dietary pattern protected against onset of metabolic syndrome (as defined by National Cholesterol Education Program Adult Treatment Panel III) in the Framingham Heart Study Offspring Cohort.
Made you look!
Don’t you just love acronyms? Lately it seems you gotta have a clever acronym for your scientific study or it won’t get published or remembered.
Metabolic syndrome is a constellation of clinical traits that are associated with increased risk for developing cardiovascular disease (two-fold increased risk) and type 2 diabetes (six-fold increased risk). It’squite common—about 47 million in the U.S. have it. Metabolic syndrome features include insulin resistance, large waist circumference, low HDL cholesterol, elevated fasting blood sugar, high triglycerides, and elevated blood pressure.
For optimal health, you want to avoid metabolic syndrome.
Boston-based researchers reported in American Journal of Clinical Nutrition last December that followers of the the Mediterranean diet had less risk of developing metabolic syndrome; not by much, but it was statistically significant. The study population was the Framingham (Massachusetts) Heart Study Offspring Cohort.
Several thousand men and women were studied via food frequency questionnaires, lab work, and physical exams. Adherence to the Mediterranean diet was measured via a calculated score ranging from zero to 100. No diabetics were enrolled. Average age was 54. Follow-up time averaged seven years.
They found that those adhering closely to the Mediterranean diet had fewer metabolic syndrome traits at baseline: less insulin resistance, lower waist size, lower fasting blood sugar, lower triglycerides, and higher HDL cholesterol levels.
Not only that, the Mediterranean dieters developed less metabolic syndrome over time. Over seven years, 38% of the folks with least compliance to the Mediterranean diet developed metabolic syndrome. Of those with highest adherence, only 30% developed it.
This is the first study to show a prospective association between the Mediterranean diet and improved insulin resistance. Avoiding insulin resistance is a good thing, and may help explain the Spanish study that found lower incidence of type 2 diabetes in Mediterranean diet followers.
Why didn’t the investigators report on the incidence of diabetes that developed over the course of the study? Surely some of these folks developed diabetes. Are they saving that for another report? “Publish or perish,” you know.
You can start to see why the Mediterranean diet has a reputation as one of the healthiest around.
It would be interesting to score these study participants with a very low-carb diet score (VLCDS—yeah, baby!). Such diets are associated with lower blood pressure, lower blood sugars, lower triglycerides, and higher HDL cholesterol. Like Mediterranean diet followers, I bet low-carbers would demonstrate lower prevalence of metabolic syndrome at baseline and lower incidence over time.
Reference: Rumawas, M., Meigs, J., Dwyer, J., McKeown, N., & Jacques, P. (2009). Mediterranean-style dietary pattern, reduced risk of metabolic syndrome traits, and incidence in the Framingham Offspring Cohort American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 90 (6), 1608-1614 DOI: 10.3945/ajcn.2009.27908