Health & Lifestyle

Introducing The ‘Atlantic’ Diet – better for slashing cholesterol, weight and beer bellies than the Mediterranean, according to experts

  • Researchers in Spain found that the Atlantic diet lowered metabolic disease
  • The diet emphasizes stews and baking vegetables and meat in sauces
  • READ MORE: Mediterranean diet can keep your mind sharp in old age

The Mediterranean diet has long been lauded as the world’s healthiest eating plan.

The diet, which emphasizes lean protein, seafood, and healthy fats like olive oil, has mountains of studies pointing to its benefits. 

These include weight loss, lowered risk of heart disease, and even warding off dementia

However, a new study suggests that an up-and-coming diet could dethrone Mediterranean plan and halve the risk of metabolic syndrome, which can lead diabetes, high blood prssure, and heart disease.  

Researchers in Spain recruited more than 200 familes and assigned roughly half to follow the Atlantic diet, an eating plan derived from Spain and Portugal that emphasizes stews, baked and boiled foods, rather than roasted in fat or fried, as well as local, seasonal options. 

Those who stuck to the Atlantic diet instead of their normal foods for six months ‘significantly reduced the incidence of metabolic syndrome,’ including improvements in waist circumference, weight, and HDL (good) cholesterol levels. 

Only three percent of participants following the plan developed a decline in the above health markers, compared to six percent in the other group. 

However, blood pressure and glucose – blood sugar – levels stayed the same.

The Atlantic diet prioritizes foods found in Spain and Portugal, including local and seasonal picks like fish, healthy fats, and nuts

The Atlantic diet prioritizes foods found in Spain and Portugal, including local and seasonal picks like fish, healthy fats, and nuts

One of the key aspects of the Atlantic diet is stewing, boiling, and grilling foods. Stewing has been shown to reduce the amount of harmful additives that can lead to heart disease and dementia

One of the key aspects of the Atlantic diet is stewing, boiling, and grilling foods. Stewing has been shown to reduce the amount of harmful additives that can lead to heart disease and dementia

Michelle Routhenstein, a registered dietitian nutritionist at EntirelyNourished, who was not involved in the study, told Healthline: ‘The Atlantic Diet presents significant potential for enhancing health due to its emphasis on nutrient-dense foods and family-oriented eating habits.’

In the study, published Wednesday in JAMA Network Open, the researchers evaluated 231 familes from a primary health care center in rural northwestern Spain between 2014 and 2015. 

The participants included 518 adults ages 18 to 85, all of whom were of Spanish ethnicity and Caucasian descent.

The average participant age was 47 years old, and 60 percent of them were female. 

Roughly 450 participants did not have metabolic syndrome, a group of conditions that raises the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and stroke, among other disorders. Additionally, 117 of the patients already had metabolic syndrome. 

They were then divided into two groups, 270 (121 familes) of whom followed the Atlantic diet and 248 (110 families) of whom stuck to their normal foods. 

People participating in the Atlantic diet also attended three nutrition education sessions and received a cooking class, recipe book, and food baskets. 

Another key tenet is finding seasonal, locally grown foods, such as those you may see at the farmer's market

Another key tenet is finding seasonal, locally grown foods, such as those you may see at the farmer’s market

Healthy fats like salmon and olive oil are found in the Atlantic diet, as well as the hugely popular Mediterranean and DASH plans

Healthy fats like salmon and olive oil are found in the Atlantic diet, as well as the hugely popular Mediterranean and DASH plans

At the start of the study and at the six-month mark, the researchers collected information about the patients’ diet, physical activity, and medication using a food diary. 

The team then measured several aspects of the participants’ metabolic health, including waist circumference, triglyceride – fats in the blood – levels, HDL (good) cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and glucose levels.

Of those on the Atlantic diet, three percent developed metabolic syndrome after six months compared to seven percent of those following their normal diet. 

The researchers also found that Atlantic diet participants had improvements in waist circumference, weight, and cholesterol. However, blood pressure, triglyceride levels, and glucose did not change. 

After six months, one-third of patients with metabolic syndrome in both groups no longer showed signs of the condition. 

The researchers said this suggests the Atlantic diet mainly benefitted those who had not yet developed metabolic syndrome. 

‘A traditional Atlantic dietary intervention significantly reduced the incidence of metabolic syndrome,’ the team wrote.

However, they also said that longer-term research is needed.  

The Atlantic diet is largely similar to eating plans like Mediterranean and DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension), which focus on minimally processed who grains, fish, and healthy fats like olive oil.

The key difference is its emphasis on stewed, boiled, baked, and grilled foods. 

Stewing has been shown to boost health by preserving natural flavored and minimizing the formation of advanced glycation end products (AGEs), compounds that, in high levels, could lead to heart disease, diabetes, and dementia. 

Stews tend to be thicker than soups, containing just enough liquid to cover the main ingredients. 

‘By prioritizing wholesome ingredients and traditional cooking methods such as stewing, this diet enhances the bioavailability of nutrients, ensuring that the body can better absorb and utilize them,’ Ms Routhenstein said. 

Another key tenet is eating seasonal, locally grown foods that you may find in a farmer’s market whenever possible. 

However, if you can’t find a farmer’s market, Dr Cheng-Han Chen, an interventional cardiologist at MemorialCare Saddleback Medical Center in California, told Healthline that you can focus on fresh foods like vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, fish, and lean meats. 

‘Its emphasis on foods that are minimally processed is a lesson we can incorporate into our eating habits,’ he said. 


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