Diet during pregnancy can also have serious health benefits, said Dr. Anam Sohail Minhas, assistant professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins Medicine. in recent study Among nearly 7,800 women, published in December, researchers found that those who followed a Mediterranean diet most closely at the time of conception and during early pregnancy had a nearly 21 percent lower risk of pregnancy complications, such as pre-eclampsia. , gestational diabetes or premature birth.

“There definitely appears to be a protective effect,” Dr. Minhas said.

However, the Mediterranean diet isn’t a panacea in itself, Dr. Heffron said — it won’t eliminate your chances of developing heart disease, and it won’t cure the disease. It is important that people also pay attention to other principles of good heart health, such as getting regular exercise and enough sleep, and not smoking.

The diet can be conducive to weight loss, Ms. Zumpano said, but you still have to pay attention to calories.

“Foods that are rich in nutrients are not necessarily low in calories,” Dr. Heffron, who noted that the diet includes foods like olive oil and nuts, which are heart-healthy but high in calories and can lead to weight gain if consumed. large portions. But if you’re changing your diet from one rich in calories, saturated fat and added sugars, for example, to one that prioritizes vegetables, fruits and lean proteins, it may result in some weight loss, he said.

However, the Mediterranean diet isn’t meant to be a hack for rapid weight loss. Rather, it should inspire long-term changes in eating behavior. in a study For example, in more than 30,000 people living in Italy, researchers found that those who followed the Mediterranean diet most closely over about 12 years were less likely to be overweight or obese than those who followed the diet the least. The chances were slim. a short study, published in 2020, enrolled 565 adults who had intentionally lost 10 percent or more of their body weight in the prior year. It found that those who reported following the Mediterranean diet closely were twice as likely to maintain weight loss as those who did not follow the diet as closely.

If you start following a Mediterranean diet, limited evidence suggests that you may notice some cognitive improvements — including attention, alertness and satisfaction, according to A Review of Studies Published in 2021 – Within the first 10 days. But people need to stick with it, ideally for their whole lives, to get long-term benefits in terms of heart health, Ms Zumpano said.

That being said, that said, the diet does allow for some flexibility; The occasional cake or steak won’t undo its overall benefits.

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