A Puerto Rican study supports the benefits of the Mediterranean diet in obese populations

Dietary intake was assessed using a food frequency questionnaire with different ranges.

Dr. Josiemer Mattei, Donald and Sue Pritzker Associate Professor of Nutrition, Department of Nutrition, Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health. Photo: provided to the Journal of Medicine and Public Health.

The elderly population of Puerto Rico is experiencing a heavy burden of cardiometabolic diseases due to the pronounced cardiovascular risk, including obesity, including that prevalent in the abdomen and which today is associated with metabolic syndrome.

It is the health burden of these diseases that is reflected every day in the growing mortality of patients due to these chronic conditions associated with obesity.

For this reason, a group of researchers from the country conducted a study to assess the relationship between the Mediterranean diet (MeDS) and the Alternative Healthy Eating Index 2010 (AHEI) – a tool that allows assessing the diet of the population under US dietary guidelines. Dietary guidelines for Americans – with central obesity in the evaluation of the cross-sectional study of diet, lifestyle and diseases of Puerto Rico (PRADLAD).

The team analyzed data from PRADLAD participants aged 30-75 years in a sample of 166 patients. Dietary intake was assessed using a food frequency questionnaire with different ranges, and waist circumference measurements were also taken into account.

Among the most notable results were found that representative MeDS traditional foods – this diet can vary between populations – include potatoes, tubers, fruit juice, avocados, bread, oatmeal, beans, chicken, seafood, low-fat milk, cheese, eggs and beer and that greater adherence to MeDS or AHEI is associated with less central adult obesity in Puerto Rico.

“Consumption of traditional foods that reflect these dietary patterns (ie, of the Mediterranean type) may reduce central obesity in high-risk populations,” the study concluded.

This study is the first study to create and evaluate a MeDS diet adapted to the Puerto Rican population. The data from it can be used for future assessments and nutritional analyzes of the island, given the lack of epidemiological research in this area.

Among the criteria for inclusion in the study were living in Puerto Rico for at least 10 months at the time of the study, answering questions without assistance, and the study was part of an alliance between Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, Ponce Health University and Massachusetts Lowell and Northeastern University.

Access the study here.