The Mediterranean diet has long been praised as the healthiest eating plan in the world.
The diet, which emphasizes lean protein, seafood and healthy fats like olive oil, has mountains of studies pointing to its benefits.
These include weight loss, lower risk of heart disease, and even preventing dementia.
However, a new study suggests that a promising diet could dethrone the Mediterranean diet and halve the risk of metabolic syndrome, which can lead to diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.
Researchers in Spain recruited more than 200 families and assigned about half to follow the Atlantic diet, an eating plan derived from Spain and Portugal that emphasizes stews, baked and boiled foods, rather than fatty roasted or fried foods. as well as local seasonal options. .
Those who followed the Atlantic diet instead of their usual foods for six months “significantly reduced the incidence of metabolic syndrome,” including improvements in waist circumference, weight and HDL (good) cholesterol levels.
Only three percent of participants who followed the plan developed a decline in the health markers mentioned above, compared to six percent in the other group.
However, blood pressure and glucose (blood sugar) levels remained the same.
The Atlantic diet prioritizes foods found in Spain and Portugal, including local and seasonal selections such as fish, healthy fats, and nuts.
One of the key aspects of the Atlantic diet is stewing, boiling and roasting foods. Stewing has been shown to reduce the amount of harmful additives that can cause heart disease and dementia.
Michelle Routhenstein, a registered dietitian nutritionist at EntirelyNourished, who was not involved in the study, said health line: ‘The Atlantic Diet presents significant potential for improving health due to its emphasis on nutrient-dense foods and family-oriented eating habits.’
In the study, published Wednesday in Open JAMA NetworkThe researchers evaluated 231 families from a primary health care center in a rural area of northwestern Spain between 2014 and 2015.
Participants included 518 adults between the ages of 18 and 85, all of Spanish ethnicity and Caucasian descent.
The average age of the participants was 47 years old and 60 percent of them were women.
About 450 participants did not have metabolic syndrome, a group of conditions that increase the risk of heart disease, diabetes and stroke, among other disorders. Additionally, 117 of the patients already had metabolic syndrome.
They were then divided into two groups, 270 (121 families) of which followed the Atlantic diet and 248 (110 families) stuck to their normal foods.
People who participated in the Atlantic diet also attended three nutrition education sessions and received a cooking class, a recipe book, and food baskets.
Another key principle is to find locally grown, seasonal foods, like those you might see at the farmers market.
Healthy fats like salmon and olive oil are found in the Atlantic diet, as well as the very popular Mediterranean and DASH plans.
At the beginning of the study and after six months, researchers collected information about patients’ diet, physical activity, and medications using a food diary.
The team then measured several aspects of the participants’ metabolic health, including waist circumference, triglyceride (blood fat) levels, HDL (good) cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and glucose levels. .
Of those on the Atlantic diet, three percent developed metabolic syndrome after six months compared to seven percent of those on their normal diet.
The researchers also found that the Atlantic diet participants had improvements in waist circumference, weight and cholesterol. However, blood pressure, triglyceride levels, and glucose did not change.
After six months, a third of metabolic syndrome patients in both groups no longer showed signs of the disease.
The researchers said this suggests that the Atlantic diet primarily benefited those who had not yet developed metabolic syndrome.
“A traditional Atlantic dietary intervention significantly reduced the incidence of metabolic syndrome,” the team wrote.
However, they also said longer-term research is needed.
The Atlantic diet is largely similar to eating plans like the Mediterranean and DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension), which focus on minimally processed grains, fish, and healthy fats like olive oil.
The key difference is its emphasis on stewed, boiled, baked and roasted foods.
Stewing has been shown to improve health by preserving natural flavor and minimizing the formation of advanced glycation end products (AGEs), compounds that, at high levels, could lead to heart disease, diabetes, and dementia.
Stews tend to be thicker than soups and contain enough liquid to cover the main ingredients.
“By prioritizing healthy ingredients and traditional cooking methods, such as stewing, this diet improves the bioavailability of nutrients, ensuring they are better absorbed and used by the body,” Ms Routhenstein said.
Another key principle is to eat locally grown, seasonal foods that, whenever possible, can be found at the farmers market.
However, if you can’t find a farmers market, said Dr. Cheng-Han Chen, an interventional cardiologist at MemorialCare Saddleback Medical Center in California, health line That you can focus on fresh foods like vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, fish, and lean meats.
“Its emphasis on minimally processed foods is a lesson we can incorporate into our eating habits,” she said.