Long Term Benefits of Mediterranean Diet
Switching to a Mediterranean-type diet for just eight weeks can have lasting effects on your health. In fact, according to new research by British investigators, switching to the dietary pattern, while also boosting one’s exercise, is a prescription for long-term health benefits. The improvements persist for at least a full year, even after reverting to old habits.
According to researchers, it all comes down to endothelial function. The endothelium is a specialized layer of cells that lines the interior of our blood vessels. It is here, in this delicate tissue, that most cardiovascular disease arises, often long before any ill effects appear. A variety of factors appear to influence the development of this “endothelial dysfunction,” including activity levels and diet.
Generally speaking, people who are at least moderately active and consume a plant-based diet, rich in fiber and antioxidant phytonutrients, tend to have better endothelial function. As a result, they are less likely to develop atherosclerosis; the underlying cause of most heart disease. Given that heart disease is still the number one cause of death among Americans (cancer is a distant second), it certainly makes sense to pay attention to the health of one’s blood vessel linings.
For one thing, endothelial dysfunction leads to stiffer, less flexible vessels. That forces the heart to work harder, which results in high blood pressure (hypertension). Called the “silent killer,” hypertension is an independent risk factor for heart disease. In a press release, lead researcher Dr Markos Klonizakis, said: "Preserving a patient's endothelial function as they get older is thought to reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular disease…Although exercise on its own can beneficial, other lifestyle factors such as nutrition play an important role as well.”
"Considering the scientific evidence…that a Mediterranean diet offers health benefits, it made sense to examine how such a diet, when combined with exercise, could affect the small veins of our body due to their important role in our overall well-being, in the longer-term.” The Mediterranean diet features lots of olives and olive oil, plants, fruits, whole grains, fresh herbs, fish, and limited meat and dairy.
Markos Klonizakis, Ahmad Alkhatib, Geoff Middleton. Long-term effects of an exercise and Mediterranean diet intervention in the vascular function of an older, healthy population. Microvascular Research, 2014; 95: 103 DOI: 10.1016/j.mvr.2014.07.015