The Mediterranean diet: good for the body, good for the heart
Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death worldwide. No better reason to make our menus “greener”! The main finding of an Israeli study1 published in Genome Medicine is that our microbiota transforms plant foods into benefits for our arteries.
About this article
Recommended by academic associations2,3 and praised by the public, (sidenote: Mediterranean diet Rich in fruit, vegetables, cereals, oilseeds (nuts) and fish, and low in red meat, saturated fats and dairy products. Lăcătușu CM, Grigorescu ED, Floria M, et al. The Mediterranean Diet: From an Environment-Driven Food Culture to an Emerging Medical Prescription. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2019 Mar 15;16(6):942. ) has proven its effectiveness in reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease. But if it were more “vegetarian”, would the beneficial effects for our arteries be even greater? Recent studies suggest that by decreasing the proportion of animal proteins and fats in our diet in favor of vegetable equivalents (nuts, seeds, legumes, olive oil, etc.), the incidence of heart attacks, strokes, and death from cardiovascular disease would fall dramatically, 30%-40% less than with a “standard” diet.
Mankai and green tea: heart benefits of the Green-Med diet
Israeli researchers have just confirmed these results through their purpose-made
“Green Mediterranean” diet
, a “greener” version of the Mediterranean diet. The 300 individuals involved in the study all suffered from abdominal obesity and/or excess fat in the blood, and were therefore at cardiovascular risk. They followed either the Green-Med diet, a classic Mediterranean diet, or the standard “healthy” dietary guidance. All participants took part in moderate physical activity. The researchers also sought to explore the links between these diets and the gut microbiota, as well as their impact on weight loss and various determinants of cardiometabolic risk, such as waist circumference, blood pressure, and
An altered response of cells to the action of insulin (a hormone that helps the body use sugar for energy), insulin resistance results in poor regulation of blood sugar levels.
Inserm. La résistance à l’insuline, une histoire de communication. 2018.
Centers for disease control and prevention. Diabetes - Resources and Publications -Glossary ) .
The Mediterranean diets contained the same number of calories and were both supplemented with nuts (28 g per day). The Green-Med diet also included :
- green tea (3-4 cups per day)
Mankai, or Wolffia globosa, is an aquatic plant known for its nutritional qualities. It is rich in proteins (45% of dry weight), essential amino acids, omega-3 fatty acids, dietary fiber, polyphenols, and numerous micronutrients.
Sela I, Yaskolka Meir A, Brandis A, et al. Wolffia globosa-Mankai Plant-Based Protein Contains Bioactive Vitamin B12 and Is Well Absorbed in Humans. Nutrients. 2020;12(10):3067. ) (100 g per day), an Asian plant rich in fiber and vegetable protein that can be used as a meat substitute.
These two foods also contain polyphenols known to influence fat metabolism4 and promote weight loss.
A modified microbiota with fewer microorganisms and amino acids linked to excess weight
After six months, all three groups showed changes in their gut microbiota. However, the Green-Med diet was distinguished by several changes, particularly in rare, person-specific, and diet-influenced microorganism species. Specifically, it led to an increase in Prevotella, previously associated with vegetarian diets, and a decrease in Bifidobacteria, known to improve sugar metabolism and facilitate weight loss. Insulin resistance and the production and absorption by these microorganisms of certain amino acids involved in obesity were also reduced.
The gut microbiota
Green-Med, the champion of cardiovascular health
The results: the Green-Med diet topped the podium in terms of weight loss (-6.5% vs -5.4% for the Mediterranean diet and -1.6% for the standard diet). Green-Med also led to improvements in markers of cardiometabolic risk. According to the researchers, these benefits are at least in part related to Green-Med’s impact on the gut microbiota.
-6,5 % Green-Med
-5,4 % Mediterranean diet
-1,6 % Standard diet
This study shows that an enhanced plant-based diet is better for our cardiometabolic health and that the gut microbiota is actively involved in these benefits.
Will you have another cup of green tea?
1. Rinott E, Meir AY, Tsaban G et al. The effects of the Green-Mediterranean diet on cardiometabolic health are linked to gut microbiome modifications: a randomized controlled trial. Genome Med. 2022 Mar 10;14(1):29
3. Arnett DK, Blumenthal RS, Albert MA, et al. 2019 ACC/AHA Guideline on the Primary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease: A Report of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Task Force on Clinical Practice Guidelines, Circulation. 2019 Sep 10;140(11):e596-e646