Mediterranean Diet, Inflammation, and Cortisol

Posted by – March 13, 2013
Categories: Food & Nutrition

A recent large-scale study of over 7000 people who were placed on a Mediterranean diet made headlines around the world. The study reported in the New England Journal of Medicine found that people with high risk for heart disease: smokers, overweight people, diabetics and those with other risk factors who were placed on a Mediterranean diet had over a 30% lower incidence of heart disease than those people on a control diet, either low fat or the usual modern diet of with high amounts of red meat, sodas and baked goods. The people with the lower heart disease rate ate 4 tablespoons of olive oil per day, or a handful of nuts such as walnuts, almonds or hazelnuts. In addition they consumed fish at least three times per week, legumes three times a week and drank seven glasses of red wine a week.

This study further confirms what I have pointed out in The Adaptation Diet, that eating foods that are anti-inflammatory such as nuts and olive oils rich in omega 3 and omega 9 oils, cold water fish rich in omega 3 oils, as well as large amounts of anti-oxidant rich plant based foods is good for your heart. An earlier study that I discuss in the book found that women on a Mediterranean diet showed lower cortisol levels and less activation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis than those on a control diet. This also point out the effect diet has on reducing inflammation since cortisol is produced to combat dietary stress which leads to greater obesity and risks for not only heart disease but cancer and diabetes.

The bottom line is that there is greater evidence than ever before that diet can control inflammation, the underlying process in nearly all chronic disease. Controlling cortisol through diet is the natural outcome of a plant based and healthy fat diet, especially one rich in olive oil as the main fat, cold-water fish, legumes, vegetable and fresh fruits. The diet used in this groundbreaking study is almost identical to the maintenance diet I present in The Adaptation Diet. Making dietary choices based on a traditional Mediterranean diet used for many generations of people with lower incidence of cancer, heart disease, obesity and diabetes seems to be an obvious choice we can all make. The pay off is greater adaptation, lower cortisol levels, less inflammation and a smaller waist line.

Featured image by Giåm [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Recommended reading:

The Adaptation Diet

About the Author

Charles A. Moss, MD, is a pioneer in the integration of nutritional and environmental medical approaches with acupuncture and relaxation techniques. In 1978 he established the Moss Center for Integrative Medicine in La Jolla, CA, one of the first holistic health medical clinics in the U.S. His unique approach to stress-induced and chronic medical problems has attracted patients from all over the United States, Mexico, and Europe.