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Eating Like an Italian May Reverse Metabolic Syndrome

Update Date: Oct 14, 2014 06:09 PM EDT

Eating like an Italian or Spaniard could help cure metabolic syndrome, according to a new study.

Around one in four adults worldwide have metabolic syndrome, which is characterized by having three or more of the following factors: large waist circumference, high blood pressure levels, low HDL-cholesterol levels, high levels of triglycerides and high blood sugar concentrations. What's more, metabolic syndrome increases the risk of diabetes, heart disease and death.

The latest study involved men and women between the ages of 55 and 80 years old who were at risk of developing heart disease. Researchers said participants were randomly assigned to one of the three diets: a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil, a Mediterranean diet supplemented with nuts or a low-fat diet.

Sixty-four percent of the 5,801 participants had metabolic syndrome at the beginning of the study. However, 28.2 percent of these participants no longer met the criteria of metabolic syndrome after a median follow up period of 4.8 years, according to researchers.

"In this large, multicentre, randomized clinical trial involving people with high cardiovascular risk, a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil was associated with a smaller increase in the prevalence of metabolic syndrome compared with advice on following a low-fat diet," researcher Dr. Jordi Salas-Salvadó, Human Nutrition Unit, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Universitat Rovira i Virgili and Hospital Universitari de Sant Joan de Reus, IISPV, Reus, Spain, and his team wrote in the study. "Because there were no between-group differences in weight loss or energy expenditure, the change is likely attributable to the difference in dietary patterns."

"Mediterranean diets supplemented with olive oil or nuts were not associated with a reduced incidence of metabolic syndrome compared with a low-fat diet; however, both diets were associated with a significant rate of reversion of metabolic syndrome," researchers concluded.

The findings are published in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).

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