Mediterranean or Cretan diet: what are the health benefits?

Also baptized Cretan dietThe Mediterranean diet is particularly followed by Greeks, Italians and French people living in the south of the country.

Mediterranean diet voted the best diet for 2024

For the seventh year consecutive the Mediterranean diet has stagnated the title of best diet in the 2024 ranking of the American magazine US News and World Report(source 1).

To establish this classification, a panel of nutrition and health experts examined 40 different diets to classify them into several categories: easy to follow, likelihood of significant weight loss in the short and long term, effectiveness in preventing chronic diseases like cardiovascular disease or diabetes, and nutritional intake general.

  • In second place is the DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) to combat hypertension with a focus on reducing salt intake.
  • In third position the RThe Mind Diet, utilizing the principles of the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet, aims to promote proper brain function.
  • O flexitarian dietwhich encourages being vegetarian most of the time without occasionally depriving yourself of meat and fish, appears in 5th position in the 2024 ranking.

Why is this diet popular?

That balanced and diverse diet helps ensure sufficient intake of macronutrients and micronutrients.

The basis of the Mediterranean diet is the adoption of a local, unprocessed diet with a reasonable consumption of salt. Florence Foucaut, nutritionist

A handful of vegetables, a piece of white meat or a slice of fatty fish, a touch of olive oil, some whole grains, a portion of fruit and a dairy product, the menu is simple. All of these foods provide numerous benefits in general health, heart and brain health, weight loss, cancer prevention, diabetes prevention and control.

According to a large study published in August 2023, adherence to the Mediterranean way of life – diet, but also naps and social life – would be associated with lower mortality. The participants who most respected the criteria of the Mediterranean “lifestyle” had a 29% reduced the risk of dying (all causes combined) and 28% cancer compared to those who were further away (source 2).

A diet rich in antioxidants against cellular aging

The remarkable longevity of the Mediterraneans has been known for a long time! The main explanation for this protective effect is the great richness in antioxidant substancesfruits and vegetables, oilspices, which can delay the effects of aging.

In the Mediterranean diet, fruits and vegetables must be in season. “Eating fruits and vegetables at the moment guarantees the maximum vitamins it’s from minerals », explains Florence Foucaut. And, most importantly, the redder they are, the higher the concentration of antioxidants.

Rich in fiber that protects against certain diseases

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

Another health benefit of fruits and vegetables: fibers. “Low fiber consumption is associated with the appearance of some types of cancer, such as colon cancer. It is recommended to consume 30 grams per day, a way to effectively prevent the occurrence of colon cancer », highlights Florence Foucaut. O Dietary fiber They also help reduce the absorption of cholesterol and glucose. An effective solution for control your blood sugar and reduce the risk of suffering from diabetes.

Little red meat, no processed or sugary foods, lots of fiber, maximum fruits and vegetables, spices and aromatics… the Mediterranean diet combines all foods recommended to prevent cancer. Thus, according to several studies, it would be interesting to reduce the risks of ENT, digestive, breast and endometrial cancer.

How does the Cretan diet prevent diabetes?

According to a study published in 2020 (source 3), the Mediterranean diet would help reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes by 30%. Once again, this protective effect against diabetes could be partially linked to the presence of antioxidants that would help fight diabetes. inflammation, a factor, among other things, of diabetes. Its richness in fruits and vegetables, whole grains and legumes as well as the low presence of sugary and processed products also play an important role in prevention of insulin resistance. Resistance to insulin It is a condition considered a precursor to diabetes: this hormone secreted by the pancreas has the function of facilitating the penetration of glucose into cells and, thus, reducing the level of sugar in the blood (glycemia).

In terms of vision: omega to fight AMD

A study published in 2018 (source 4) by a team from Inserm Bordeaux concludes that there is a 41% reduction in the risk of developing macular degeneration (AMD) in elderly people adhering 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 that filter blue light that is toxic to the eyes. Fatty acid intake Omega 3 of animal or vegetable origin, also present in greater quantities in the retina, is also mentioned.

Dairy products to strengthen bones

Other essential products of the Mediterranean diet: dairy products. They also offer many benefits. I’contribution of calcium and protein helps fight againstosteoporosis and strengthen bones. Naturally rich in probioticsDairy products provide comfort to the intestinal flora and act on the entire microbiota.

A balanced diet for good brain health

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

O Whole grains They are an integral part of the meal. Rich in magnesiumthey act at the central level and make it possible to combat against fatigue and anxiety. Florence Foucaut.

Better thinking skills as we age

Published at the end of 2020 in the magazine Experimental GerontologyA scientific study indicates that people who follow a Mediterranean-style diet are more likely to remain mentally sharp as they age (statement researchers at the University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom). Thus, people who most adhered to the Mediterranean diet had the highest cognitive scoreseven taking into account bias factors such as childhood intelligence quotient, smoking, level of physical activity.

In detail, the dietary elements most strongly associated with better cognitive scores were frequent consumption of green leafy vegetables and low consumption of red meat. More broadly, the study proves the importance of a healthy and balanced diet for cognitive health, thinking and 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 would be linked to anti-inflammatory virtues of such a dietbut also to yours favorable action on intestinal microbiotal (also called intestinal flora) whose composition has an impact on the relationships between the brain and the intestine.

The Cretan diet, an ally against cardiovascular diseases

Numerous studies have found a link between the Mediterranean diet and the improvement of parameters linked to this risk and/or reducing strokes and heart attacks. One of the most recent, PREDIMED, compared in 2017 the effects of three diets on 187 participants over 55 years of age with cardiovascular risk: the first two groups were submitted to a Mediterranean diet, one with the addition of olive oil (around 1 l per week), the other with added nuts (30 g of walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts per day) and the third group with a low-fat diet.

At the end of the experiment, participants in the first two groups saw their cardiovascular risk decrease significantly, with a notable regression of atherosclerosis. “We can invoke the rich in antioxidants with protective effects on the genesis of atherosclerotic plaque”, explains Dr. “We found other beneficial parameters, such as low consumption of saturated fatssalt and sugar and the importance given to fiber, unsaturated fats…” adds Dr. Lecerf.

The Mediterranean diet shows promise in men suffering from erectile dysfunction

The question of the importance of screening for high pressure in patients who suffer from erectile dysfunction, and vice versa, is now well established, hypertensive men being more likely to suffer from erectile dysfunction. Based on the observation that the Mediterranean diet is beneficial in preventing heart attacks in cases of cardiovascular risk, the researchers wanted to study its effects in these two simultaneous conditions. Their study was presented in 2021 Congress of the French Society of Cardiology.

The researchers found that the men who adhered most mediterranean diet had greater testosterone reserves, better coronary flow, better erectile performance and lower arterial stiffness. “In our study, consumption 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, main author of the study. The researchers hypothesize that this diet may improve physical condition and erectile performance improving the function of blood vessels and limiting the drop in testosterone that occurs in men in middle age.

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