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The Impact of Mediterranean Diets on Metabolic Syndrome

Oct 24, 2014

A supplemented Mediterranean diet can lead to metabolic syndrome reversal….

Metabolic syndrome is characterized by risk factors that increase an individual’s chances for cardiovascular disease. These risk factors include obesity, hypertension, high cholesterol and uncontrolled blood glucose. In addition to cardiovascular disease, those with metabolic syndrome are at increased risk for type 2 diabetes. The Mediterranean diet is considered by many dieticians as a viable option for those suffering from diabetes and hypertension. A previous study with a one year follow-up has shown the diet’s ability to reverse metabolic syndrome.


The purpose of this study was to use a longer follow-up of 4.8 years to determine the long-term impact of the Mediterranean diet on metabolic syndrome. Subjects were randomly assigned to one of three groups: Mediterranean diet with supplemental extra virgin olive oil, Mediterranean diet with supplemental nuts or advice for following a low-fat diet. The primary outcome for this study was metabolic syndrome status, both incidence and reversal. Having metabolic syndrome was defined as having at least three of the cardiometabolic risk factors previously discussed. Cox regression analysis was used to determine the hazard ratios and to calculate the confidence intervals.

When examining incidence for metabolic syndrome, those subjects without metabolic syndrome (2094 subjects) at baseline were followed. No significant differences were observed between the three groups for metabolic syndrome incidence (control vs olive oil HR 1.10, 95% CI 0.94-1.30, P=0.231; control vs nuts HR 1.08, 95% CI 0.92-1.27, P=0.322). Metabolic syndrome reversion was determined by following those subjects who had metabolic syndrome at baseline (3392 subjects). Overall 28.2% saw a reversal of metabolic syndrome. Both groups using Mediterranean diet were more likely to see reversal when compared to control (control vs olive oil HR 1.35, 95% CI 1.15-1.58, P<0.001; control vs nuts HR 1.28, 95% CI 1.08-1.51, P<0.001). The Mediterranean diet supplemented with olive oil also showed decreases in obesity (P<0.001) and fasting blood glucose (P=0.02).

While the Mediterranean diet did not seem to have a great impact on the incidence of metabolic syndrome, the diet did prove beneficial in reversing the condition. The Mediterranean diet, particularly one supplemented with extra virgin olive oil, could be a viable option for a patient with obesity and high blood glucose.

Practice Pearls:

  • Metabolic syndrome increases the risk of developing cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.
  • The Mediterranean diet advocates a high consumption of fruit, vegetables and fish while consuming a lower amount of red meat.
  • A Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra virgin olive can be beneficial in reversing metabolic syndrome, losing weight and improving fasting blood glucose.

Babio N, Toledo E, Estruch R, Ros E et al. Mediterranean diets and metabolic syndrome status in the PREDIMED randomized trial. Canadian Medical Association Journal. October 2014.