Update January 2021: For the third year in a row, the Mediterranean diet has been named the best overall diet by the U.S. News. It also ranked first as the best plant-based diet and the easiest diet to follow. The U.S. News diet ranking is now in its 11th year. Experts gathered this year ranked 35 diet plans, compared to 41 last 2 years.
The Mediterranean diet has long been recognized for its protective effects against various chronic diseases including cardiovascular diseases, metabolic syndrome, obesity, type 2 diabetes, several types of cancer and degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s. With the emergence of new dietary trends such as the ketogenic diet and intermittent fasting, is the Mediterranean diet still among the best choices?
U.S. News evaluated 41 popular diets and ranked them according to different criteria. More specifically, it consisted of a panel of nationally recognized health experts who gave their opinion on diets according to seven criteria: ease of application, ability to generate weight loss in the short and long term, inclusion of all nutrients, health risks, and potential to prevent diabetes and cardiovascular disease. U.S. News then created categories and named the “best” diets for each category.
The Mediterranean diet wins the prize for the best overall diet, ahead of the DASH diet which came in second place. Among the 41 diets analyzed, the Mediterranean diet was also named the best diet for healthy eating, the best vegetarian diet, the best diet for diabetes and the easiest diet to follow.
The Mediterranean diet is characterized by a high intake of plant based foods, namely whole grains, vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts and olive oil. It also relies on regular consumption of fish and poultry, as well as a moderate consumption of red wine, dairy products and eggs. In addition, it is distinguished by a low consumption of sweets, red meat and cold cuts. It is represented by a pyramid.
The benefits of the Mediterranean diet are supported by numerous large-scale meta-analyzes. Several meta-analyzes of results from more than two million individuals participating in studies around the world concluded that adopting a Mediterranean diet significantly reduced the risk of all-causes of mortality. A meta-analysis of 50 studies and more than 500,000 participants concluded that the Mediterranean diet protected against the metabolic syndrome and associated risk factors such as abdominal obesity, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and insulin resistance. A meta-analysis involving 83 studies and more than two million individuals demonstrated that the adherence to a Mediterranean diet reduced the risk of death from several types of cancer. A meta-analysis including 29 studies indicated that the Mediterranean diet has a protective effect against cardiovascular diseases. Finally, a meta-analysis of 5 studies suggests that the Mediterranean diet is associated with a reduced risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.