For decades now, the Mediterranean diet has been touted as one of the best lifestyle diets to ward off extra pounds and disease, such as lower the risk of heart disease and stroke, as well as the risk of developing Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and type 2 diabetes. However, the coastal diet has a few lesser-known men’s health benefits, as well.
Reduced Risk of Prostate Cancer
Researchers from The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center recently found that men with localized prostate cancer who reported a baseline dietary pattern that closely resembles a Mediterranean-style diet fared better over the course of their disease than those with more traditional Western diets.
The study also found that the effect of a Mediterranean diet was more pronounced in African American participants and others who self-identified as non-white. These findings are significant as the rate of prostate cancer diagnosis is more than 50% higher in African American men, who also have a higher risk of prostate cancer death and disease progression.
Risk of Colon Cancer Drops
According to the American Cancer Society®, colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosed in American men and the second leading cause of death.
Although there are many factors, diet has a big impact on your odds of developing colorectal cancer. According to research conducted by the European Society for Medical Oncology, after surveying 800 people, the researchers found that those who had advanced colon polyps reported eating fewer components of the Mediterranean diet than those with clear colonoscopies. Colon polyps are dangerous because they are precursors to developing colorectal cancer.
Including at least 90 grams of whole grains a day can help slash your colon cancer risk by 17 percent, due to the high fiber content. Keeping your fiber intake high is important since regular bowel movements have been shown to minimize your chances of developing cancer-causing mutations in your digestive tract.
Remember that diet is not a substitute for screening. Regular colonoscopies are the best way to detect cancer early and potentially save your life.
Ward Off or Reverse Erectile Dysfunction
That’s right, the Mediterranean diet can help keep erectile dysfunction (ED) at bay and it all starts with your heart. Heart disease is a common cause of ED because once plaque starts to form and build up in your blood vessels, blood flow is decreased and even blocked in some vessels.
New research presented by researchers at the European Society of Cardiology Congress 2021 suggests that those who followed the diet most strictly had better erectile performance, blood flow, exercise capacity, higher testosterone levels, and healthier arteries than those who were less consistent.
The researchers attribute this to enhancing the function of the blood vessels and limiting the fall in testosterone that occurs in midlife. Erectile dysfunction occurs when the small arteries cannot dilate which can prohibit blood flow. Symptoms often begin in middle age when testosterone levels decrease.
A colorful diet, like the foods in the Mediterranean diet, is not only pleasing to the eye but can also be beneficial for your eye health. The American Academy™ of Ophthalmology reports that Mediterranean diet staples like dark leafy greens, oranges, peppers and sweet potatoes are eye health superfoods due to their high antioxidant levels.
A recent study in the Journal of American Medical Association Ophthalmology also states that a Mediterranean-style diet might significantly reduce the risk of a major cause of blindness in older adults.
Researchers analyzed data from nearly 5,000 people, aged 55 and older, in the Netherlands and found that those who closely followed a Mediterranean diet were 41 percent less likely to develop late-stage age-related macular degeneration (AMD) than those who did not follow the diet. AMD is a leading cause of vision loss in older Americans.
AMD causes loss of central vision, which is crucial in everyday activities such as driving, reading and writing. It affects 1.8 million Americans; however, that number is expected to rise to nearly 3 million by 2020.
Your Kidneys Function More Efficiently
Your kidneys are some of the hardest-working organs in your body, so keeping them running efficiently is vital. The Mediterranean diet has been shown to reduce the risk of developing kidney disease by 50 percent. Researchers believe it is due to the diet’s anti-inflammatory benefits since inflammation is a big contributor to chronic kidney disease.
While keeping your kidneys in good shape is important for everyone, diabetics, those who already have chronic kidney disease, or those who have certain heart conditions need to pay extra attention to their kidney health.
A recent study following participants with coronary artery disease — some of whom also had diabetes — found that those who followed a Mediterranean diet versus a low-fat diet saw a reduced decline in kidney function. But those who also had diabetes had an even smaller decline in kidney function when also following the Mediterranean diet. Those with type 2 diabetes, who started out with mildly impaired kidney function, experienced the greatest benefit.
Additionally, new research has found that older adults who follow a Mediterranean-style diet have a 48% lower risk of renal function decline than those who do not.
A Memory That Stands the Test of Time
Researchers in Australia looked at 18 different studies examining the Mediterranean diet’s impact on cognitive function, and they found that people who stuck with the diet experienced slower rates of age-related cognitive decline and decreased their risk of Alzheimer’s disease. To add to that, the diet was also associated with better memory and attention.
Newer research backs up this claim, as well. In 2020, scientists assessed the cognitive function of participants from two previous studies. They used standardized tests to determine cognitive functioning and a questionnaire to determine the extent to which the participants had followed a Mediterranean diet in the previous year.
Researchers found that those who followed a Mediterranean-style diet had a reduced risk of cognitive impairment and a higher numerical result in cognitive functioning scores. In particular, the authors found that consumption of fish was particularly associated with reduced risk of cognitive impairment, as well as slower general cognitive decline.
How to Live Mediterranean
Need some help kick-starting your Mediterranean diet? Try these five steps to incorporate more of the coastal diet’s essentials into your daily routine:
- Add a handful of nuts as a healthy snack. Try almonds, walnuts or pistachios which are packed with protein, fiber and omega-3s, but fewer saturated fats.
- Swap out your cooking oil with healthier alternatives like soybean, olive or canola. Adding these oils to your salad instead of creamy dressings can be a simple and easy way to get in some healthy fats.
- Eat three to six ounces of fatty fish, like salmon or cod, up to three times a week.
- Increase your vegetable intake to at least two servings a day. Adding a drizzle of healthy oil can help you increase your healthy fat intake from tip #2 while also increasing your vegetable intake.
- Meet with a Texas Health nutritionist or dietitian to help you start your diet appropriately, make sure you’re getting a varied, healthy mix in your diet, and help you stay on track.
It’s Not Just About Food
While we’ve focused on the nutritional benefits of the diet, the foundation of the Mediterranean diet is based on movement and community. You know getting active is an important part of staying healthy but having a sense of community and an outlet for expression and support can be just as valuable. Something as simple as going on a walk with a friend or loved one can satisfy both the body and the soul.
Looking for more information about our nutrition services? Call 1-877-THR-WELL (1-877-847-9355) to learn about nutrition services offered at your closest Texas Health location.