A collection of health issues including a wider waist circumference, higher triglyceride levels, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and high blood sugar are collectively referred to as metabolic syndrome.
According to Katherine Patton, RD, a practicing physician at the Cleveland Clinic’s Digestive Disease & Surgery Institute who was not involved in the study, the beneficial effects of the Atlantic diet on variables like belly fat and cholesterol identified in this study would be predicted. According to her, “the Mediterranean diet, which is linked to a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and metabolic syndrome, is very similar to the Atlantic diet.” She goes on to say that metabolic syndrome poses a serious risk for cardiovascular disease.
According to estimates, those who have metabolic syndrome may be 50–60% more likely than those who do not to have heart disease.
The principal investigator, Mar Calvo-Malvar, PhD, a specialist in laboratory medicine at the University Clinical Hospital of Santiago de Compostela in Spain, says the findings provide important evidence for the potential of traditional diets to improve critical risk factors for heart disease and other chronic conditions.
The Atlantic Diet: What Is It?
Researchers named the traditional food pattern in northwest Spain and Portugal the “Atlantic diet.” According to Dr. Calvo-Malvar, there are some significant distinctions between the diet and the Mediterranean diet, despite their shared commonalities.
The intake of fresh, seasonal, and locally available foods such as fruits, vegetables, cereals, pulses (dry beans, lentils, and chickpeas), fish, dairy products, and olive oil for cooking and dressing is stressed in the Atlantic diet, much like it is in the Mediterranean diet, according to the author. However, compared to the Mediterranean diet, the Atlantic diet usually consists of higher amounts of fish, dairy, potatoes, fruits, and vegetables, according to Calvo-Malvar.
Dietary Intervention with an Emphasis on Regional and Customary Foods
The six-month study involved a secondary review of data from a community-focused trial that was carried out in the northwest Spanish rural town of A Estrada between 2014 and 2015. A total of 250 households (574 adults) were randomly assigned to follow either the control group, which was instructed to stick to their regular diet, or the Atlantic diet, which is an eating pattern based on customs and locally accessible fish, seasonal fresh vegetables, and fruits.
The Atlantic diet consisted mostly of fish and seafood, with moderate amounts of starchy foods (like potatoes), dry fruits, cheese, milk, and wine. In addition, the intervention group received baskets filled with foods they were advised to eat and participated in cooking lessons and nutrition instruction workshops.
At the beginning and end of the trial, researchers measured the number of calories consumed, physical activity, use of medications, and other variables. They then attempted to account for these factors in their analysis.
Twenty-three of the 457 participants in the experiment who did not have metabolic syndrome later developed the condition: six in the intervention group (2.7 percent of participants) and 17 in the control group (7.3 percent).
Reduced Bad Cholesterol and Belly Fat as a Result of the Atlantic Diet
The intervention group saw a decrease in waist circumference and LDL cholesterol, or “bad” cholesterol, but there was no discernible change in blood pressure, triglycerides, or fasting blood sugar levels.
“These findings are encouraging given the short duration of the intervention, specifically six months with each family, and the challenge of reversing some chronic conditions and comorbidities associated with metabolic syndrome, such as hypertension or diabetes,” says Calvo-Malvar.
She notes that it’s important to remember that the healthcare system in Spain, the location of the research, makes sure that the majority of people with chronic illnesses like diabetes or hypertension receive treatment and keep their condition under control.
Based on these results, Elisabetta Politi, MPH, RD, a certified diabetes care and education specialist at Duke Health in Durham, North Carolina, who was not involved in the study, believes that the Atlantic diet may be useful in managing critical health issues and lowering the risk of metabolic syndrome. “It’s noteworthy that there was a statistically significant decrease in waist circumference. We are aware that having excess weight around the abdomen raises the risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease,” she explains.
Measure your waist accurately by standing with a tape measure around your center, slightly above your hip bones, and taking the measurement right after you exhale. A waist size of more than 35 inches for women or more than 40 inches for men increases the risk.
Which Diet Is Healthier: the Mediterranean or the Atlantic?
The study’s conclusions are important, but not because they demonstrate that the Mediterranean or Atlantic diets are superior to one another. Calvo-Malvar believes that’s not the right question to focus on at this time. It has been demonstrated that both eating styles are healthful. Which dietary pattern best fits the demographic where it is being promoted, rather than deciding which is more or less healthy, is, in my opinion, the key question, she adds.
Without a question, one of the most significant modifiable risk factors for heart disease and other chronic diseases is what we eat, and according to Calvo-Malvar, changing our diet is a crucial part of the strategy to stop the millions of deaths that occur worldwide each year.
“However, changing dietary habits is challenging, as habits are influenced by complex and intertwined societal and individual-level factors, including culture, food affordability, immediate friends and family, and the surrounding community,” she says. Because of the most recent evidence about the danger of disease associated with bad diets, it is unrealistic to assume that most individuals will substitute healthy foods and stick with those adjustments, according to Calvo-Malvar.
“I believe the best diet is one that aligns with the cultural and gastronomic heritage of the area where it is being promoted, featuring local and economically accessible foods,” she says.
Politi agrees. “This study takes important factors into account that many dietary studies leave out: what foods are available locally, what are the cultural factors that shape what people eat, and what do people enjoy and feel better eating,” she says.
According to Politi, creating a diet that takes into account the factors that influence our food choices increases the likelihood that people will be able to maintain a better eating pattern and lowers their chance of developing chronic illnesses like heart disease.
Do You Want to Try the Atlantic Diet? Professional Advice on Modifying Your Diet
It is possible to enhance our eating habits on this side of the pond by implementing certain characteristics of the Atlantic diet.
Cooking techniques People eating the Atlantic diet often prepared their foods by steaming, boiling, baking, grilling, or stewing. “This could translate well here, for example, people who like cooking in a Crock-Pot,” says Politi.
That type of “set it and forget it” slow cooking can make less-tender cuts of meat moist and juicy, she says. “It can also save money because those cuts of meat are often less expensive, and it also allows different parts of the animal to be consumed, rather than just the most tender fillets that we often focus on,” says Politi.
More fish Boost your pescatarian quotient if you want to adhere to the Atlantic diet’s nutritional guidelines.“For my clients who eat no fish, I have them start at one serving a week. If they eat one serving, we try to increase that to two,” says Politi.
Healthy substitutions Patton suggests making some healthy substitutes first. “Instead of deli meat, try tuna, hummus, and natural nut butter. You can also replace chips and pretzels with nuts, seeds, fruit, or raw vegetables.”
According to Patton, you may switch up your burger game by switching to a vegetarian, bean, or salmon burger in place of the hamburger.
Reduced consumption of highly processed meals According to Politi, the chemicals in highly processed meals like cookies and chips make us want to eat them more and more. We therefore frequently overindulge in them. It’s rare for me to hear from customers that they are addicted to quinoa or brown rice, but giving up highly processed foods can be challenging, she adds.