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Combination of Mediterranean Diet and Exercise Cuts Health Risks Substantially

By now, most people understand the relationship between exercise, diet and overall good health. But, there are definitely still some holdouts. Recent studies have confirmed that combining exercise with a healthy diet, specifically a Mediterranean-based diet, have a dramatic impact on reducing obesity and improving heart health and overall health for those who are committed. Each has its own distinct benefits, but the combination can have exponential results. 

The study, conducted at the Montreal Health Institute had significant findings, "Our results show that the combination of the two interventions supersized the benefits to heart health," according to Dr. Mathieu Gayda, an exercise physiologist. The long term implications are especially important for those with excess abdominal fatty tissue.

A Mediterranean diet is known to improve body mass index, reduce body fat overall, decrease cholesterol and improve blood pressure, among other benefits. People who follow this type of nutrition plan often find improved endurance and muscle capacity, as well. These benefits combined will typically reduce waist circumference by decreasing abdominal fat—a known contributor and risk factor for heart disease.

A Mediterranean diet is high in vegetables, whole grains and fish. By preparing small amounts of meat in healthy oils, such as olive oil, this nutritional regimen focuses on the “good” fats and markedly reduces the presence of trans fats and saturated fats in the average diet.

When study participants combined this diet with interval training consisting of high intensity, 20-30 minute intervals of cardiovascular exercise, they were noted to lose up to 8 centimetres of waist circumference, as well as decrease overall body fat by up to 15 percent. Additionally, blood sugar levels were noted to go down considerably, decreasing the risk of developing diabetes.

Although all participants demonstrated improvements, the most significant gains were noted in those who were least healthy at the start of the study. With heart disease being the number one killer in Canada, Australia, Singapore and a host of other nations worldwide, these findings are critical in the prevention of obesity as well as reducing the prevalence of heart disease.

Even more striking than the initial results were the long term findings, showing that those who showed the greatest initial improvement continued to show better health during the second year of the study by sticking with the nutrition and exercise plan.

Other studies have confirmed that four essential components and lifestyle changes can add years to your life: regular exercise, Mediterranean diet, avoiding smoking and keeping weight under control. This combination of healthy habits can help to improve overall health, which will lead to better quality of life, lower blood pressure, fewer health risks associated with obesity and diabetes, and even better cognitive functioning. Those who prioritize their health will reap these benefits for many years.

Although the Mediterranean diet is not any kind of magical cure for obesity, commitment to eating a healthy diet will help to prevent many serious health problems. Says Dr. Beth Abramson, spokesperson for the Heart and Stroke Foundation, "When it comes to a healthy weight and reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke, people look for the magic bullet…it comes down to basics and how we live our lives. We have the power to prevent up to 80 per cent of premature heart disease and stroke."


SOURCES: Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada (2013, October 18). Training, Mediterranean diet cuts health risks in obese individuals. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 20, 2013, from­ /releases/2013/10/131018084517.htm;

SOURCES: Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada (2013, October 18). Training, Mediterranean diet cuts health risks in obese individuals. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 20, 2013, from­ /releases/2013/10/131018084517.htm;