The Mediterranean diet has been around for a while now, but still ranks number one. For the sixth year in a row, the Mediterranean style of eating earned the title of best overall diet, according to 2023 ratings recently announced by U.S. News & World Report. Meals from the sunny Mediterranean also ranked first in the categories of diet best diet for healthy eating and best plant-based diet.
2023 brought two new categories in which the Mediterranean tied with the cholesterol-lowering TLC (Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes) and flexitarian diets as best family-friendly diet, and with DASH (dietary approaches to stop hypertension) for best bone and joint health diet.
Originated from the Mediterranean region in Europe, the diet is primarily plant-based with a moderate intake of fish and milk and a few portions of red meat. It entails eating foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids. It also includes drinking red wine occasionally, most of the time during social events. On top of all that, it has a simple preparation making it easy to follow.
Several studies have proven the efficacy of the Mediterranean diet.
A 2018 study published in Nutrition & Diabetes analyzed dietary patterns of 32,119 Italian participants over a mean of 12 years. Researchers concluded that following a Mediterranean diet is associated with lower levels of weight gain and less increase in waist circumference.
One study followed 10,000 Spaniards for more than four years and found that those who reported eating a Mediterranean Diet had a 30 percent lower risk of developing depression than those who didn’t. Study authors said the diet is beneficial because it contains few of the fats that drive inflammation, like saturated fat in red meat and trans fats in margarine and processed foods. At the same time, it’s rich in nuts, berries and dark vegetables that have anti-inflammatory effects.
Another study reviewed 12 international studies that included 1.5 million people, whose eating habits and health were followed for three to 18 years. In this analysis, the study participants were rated according to how well they adhered to the Mediterranean Diet. The report was published in the online edition of the British Medical Journal.
According to the study results, people who followed the Mediterranean Diet strictly, as opposed to those who were less diligent, experienced the following disease-risk reductions associated with inflammation:
- 9% reduction in Heart disease
- 13% reduction of Parkinson’s disease
- 13% reduction of Alzheimer’s disease
- 6% reduction in Cancer