A healthy diet can include “a lot of fat.”
A review of available evidence suggests that a Mediterranean diet with no restrictions on fat intake may reduce a person’s risk for breast cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular events compared to other diets.
The findings are published in Annals of Internal Medicine.
Despite advances in diagnosis and treatment, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer continue to be among the leading causes of morbidity and mortality in developed countries.
Typical Western diets, which are high in saturated fats, sugar, and refined grains, have been linked to the development of these chronic diseases.
Limited evidence has suggested that a Mediterranean diet, which is essentially plant-based, may be a healthier option.
In the study, researchers reviewed available evidence to summarize the effect of a Mediterranean diet on health outcomes. They also assess whether North American populations would be likely to adhere to such a diet.
Since not everyone defines the Mediterranean diet in the same way, the researchers defined it as a diet that placed no restriction on total fat intake and included two or more of seven components:
high monounsaturated-to-saturated fat ratio (for example, using olive oil as a main cooking ingredient), high fruits and vegetables intake, high consumption of legumes, high grain and cereal intake, moderate red wine consumption, moderate consumption of dairy products, and low consumption of meat and meat products with increased intake of fish.
So far few randomized, controlled studies have compared this type of diet to all others, but the few that did suggest that a Mediterranean diet with no restriction on fat intake may be associated with reduced risks of cardiovascular events, breast cancer, and type 2 diabetes.
In addition, observational studies reveal that total cancer incidence and mortality and colorectal and lung cancer incidence are lower in people who take the Mediterranean diet more frequently.