Mediterranean diet: a tasty weapon to protect your life

Do you fasten your seat-belt before starting your car? Do you check that the street is free before crossing it? If you answer yes to both questions, well done. But why do you do it? Obviously, because you care of your life.

And how much do you care about your diet? Do you pay attention to how many calories you eat during meals, and if you do enough physical activity to metabolize the energy you uptake? If now you are snorting, you should definitely pay attention to the following lines, because a bad diet is as dangerous as crossing a motorway blindfolded. Do you think that paying consequences on the long run instead of immediately is a favorable circumstance? I don’t see a real difference. And paying attention to your diet doesn’t mean to sacrifice yourself at every meal, but just to love yourself a bit more.

Have you ever heard of metabolic syndrome?

It is not considered a disease itself, but a condition characterized by multiple risk factors that predispose individuals to cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes mellitus. Metabolic syndrome is spread worldwide. Although it is predominant in industrialized countries (USA and Europe above all), nowadays it is common also in other regions (i.e.: Southeast Asia). Metabolic syndrome is becoming an impelling challenge for national health care systems, being a burden for economy and quality of life. The International Diabetes Federation (IDF) estimates that 25% of the world population is affected by metabolic syndrome, of which the majority is located in the USA, followed by Europeans.

The World Health Organization (WHO) in 1998 provided a definition for metabolic syndrome, taking into account the central physio-pathological role of insulin resistance, which should pair with at least two of the following criteria: obesity, dyslipidemia (high level of lipids in blood), hypertension (high blood pressure) and microalbuminuria (presence of albumin in urine). One year later, the European Group for the Study of Insulin Resistance (EGIR) revised the criteria eliminating microalbuminuria from the factors to take into account.

The path that leads from physiological condition to metabolic syndrome is characterized by multiple metabolic changes that occur in sequence. The first step is insulin resistance, which predicts type II diabetes mellitus. During this phase, the organism is less responsive to insulin, failing to maintain the glycemic balance. The subsequent step is the alteration of cells’ metabolism, because insulin resistance prevents the physiological metabolic dynamism. The organism responds with stress and pro-inflammatory signals, which lead to hypertension and type II diabetes mellitus. The third step involves hormonal and immune responses and takes the name of adiposopathy. This is characterized by an increase in the adipose tissue, inducing immune inflammatory response. The last step is a chronic low-grade inflammatory state, determined by the excessive presence of lipids.

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How to prevent the metabolic syndrome?

Scientists consider the Mediterranean diet (the dietary pattern followed by people living around the Mediterranean Sea basin) the best food system to fight metabolic syndrome. This diet is characterized by a high intake of vegetables, nuts, olive oil, and a moderate consumption of wine, along with rare consumption of red and processed meat, butter, and sugar drink. Food such as olive oil, nuts, vegetables and wine are documented to have antioxidant and anti‐inflammatory properties, which have positive effect against some features of metabolic syndrome.

Now, you can now raise your wine glass (one per day!!!) to cheer to your new healthy life. Not too bad, uh?

References

Chiva‐Blanch, G., & Badimon, L. (2017). Effects of polyphenol intake on metabolic syndrome: Current evidences from human trials. Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity, 2017, 5812401–5812418.

Finicelli M, Squillaro T, Di Cristo F, et al. Metabolic syndrome, Mediterranean diet, and polyphenols: Evidence and perspectives. J Cell Physiol. 2019; 234:5807–5826.

Guasch‐Ferré, M., Merino, J., Sun, Q., Fitó, M., & Salas‐Salvadó, J. (2017). Dietary polyphenols, Mediterranean diet, prediabetes, and type 2 diabetes: A narrative review of the evidence. Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity, 2017, 6723931.

Nolan, P. B., Carrick‐Ranson, G., Stinear, J. W., Reading, S. A., & Dalleck, L. C. (2017). Prevalence of metabolic syndrome and metabolic syndrome components in young adults: A pooled analysis. Preventive Medicine Reports, 7, 211–215.

Rochlani, Y., Pothineni, N. V., Kovelamudi, S., & Mehta, J. L. (2017). Metabolic syndrome: Pathophysiology, management, and modulation by natural compounds. Therapeutic Advances in Cardiovascular Disease, 11(8), 215–225.

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