Stress can be caused due to daily stressors, major life events like loss of loved ones, loss of jobs, etc. Stress can have mental as well as physical effects too. Mediterranean diet has long been associated with a reduction in the occurrence of heart attacks, diabetes, and other metabolic diseases. Mediterranean diet consists of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, whole pulses, nuts, and fish. According to this study published in Wake Forest Baptist medical center, switching to a Mediterranean diet might help reduce stress levels.
The researchers conducted this experiment on animals and subjected them to acute stress by isolating the animals for 30 minutes. A section of the animals were fed Mediterranean diet and the remaining ones were fed with Western diet. The diets were closely made to resemble human diets in the sense that protein derived from animal and plant food each were given to animals.
In order to measure stress responses, researchers also measured the responses of sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system along with changes in stress hormone named cortisol.
Mechanism of response to stress:
Sympathetic nervous system is responsible for the fight or flight response whereas parasympathetic nervous system plays an opposite effect i.e it helps in calming down a person. Cortisol supports the sympathetic nervous system’s fight or flight response.
Effects of consuming Mediterranean diet:
When the two groups of animals were compared, it was seen that animals that consumed a Mediterranean diet had lower levels of cortisol as well as lower sympathetic system response.
It was seen that, animals that consumed Western diet showed increased levels of stress as well as anxiety. Consumption of Mediterranean diet reduced aging of the sympathetic nervous system.
Hence through this study, we can interpret that the Mediterranean diet can help slow down aging as well as help deal with anxiety or psychological stress.