Greater adherence to a Mediterranean-style diet is inversely associated with metabolic syndrome, low-density lipoprotein (LDL)-cholesterol, and weight gain, according to a study published in PLOS ONE.

Justin Yang, M.S.P.H., from the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, and colleagues assessed adherence to a Mediterranean dietary pattern in 780 career male firefighters, aged 18 years and older, using a modified Mediterranean diet score (mMDS), developed from a lifestyle questionnaire of preexisting dietary habits. Clinical data were extracted from fire department medical examinations.

The researchers found that obese subjects had significantly lower mMDS. In addition, they reported significantly greater consumption of fast/take-out food (P < 0.001) and intake of sweetened drinks during meals (P = 0.002). There was an inverse correlation for higher mMDS with risk of weight gain over the past five years (odds ratio [OR], 0.57; P for trend across score quartiles = 0.01) and with the presence of metabolic syndrome components (OR, 0.65; P for trend across score quartiles = 0.04), after adjustment for confounding variables. After adjustment for age, body mass index, and physical activity, those with higher mMDS had higher high-density lipoprotein-cholesterol (P = 0.008) and lower LDL-cholesterol (P = 0.04).

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“Our results support the potential effectiveness of this diet in young, non-Mediterranean working cohorts, and justify future intervention studies,” the authors write.

One author disclosed serving as a paid expert witness, independent medical examiner, or both in workers’ compensation and disability cases, including cases involving firefighters.