What Is the Atlantic Diet?

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What Is the Atlantic Diet?

A traditional diet from northwest Spain and northern Portugal known as the Atlantic diet may be the next trendy diet for healthy eating.

A new study suggests the Atlantic Diet could reduce the risk of metabolic syndrome, a cluster of conditions that could develop into heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.1

Although the Atlantic diet has not been studied as extensively as the Mediterranean diet, the two eating patterns are similar.

“Both the Atlantic and the Mediterranean diets place importance on cultural and social aspects of eating. Meals are often enjoyed with family and friends, fostering a sense of community and potentially improving the quality of life in young and older populations,” Marta Guasch-Ferre, PhD, an adjunct associate professor of nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, told Verywell in an email.

Both diets include fresh fish, seasonal vegetables, legumes, whole grains, dairy, and moderate wine consumption.12

The main difference in the Atlantic diet is the higher consumption of red meat and pork products. However, Guasch-Ferre recommends limiting red meat consumption and swapping this protein for plant-based options like legumes when possible.

“While it is true that red meat and pork are a traditional food included in Atlantic diets, we do know that the high consumption of these types of food is associated with a higher risk of chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and cancer,” she said.

While the new study shows a link between the Atlantic diet and a reduced risk of metabolic syndrome, other factors could have influenced the results, said Sandra J. Arévalo, MPH, RDN, director of community health and wellness at Montefiore Nyack Hospital.

For instance, the effect of physical activity wasn’t measured in the study. The intervention group also received food baskets with items that fit the Atlantic diet along with nutrition education classes, cooking lessons, and written materials, she said.

What Older Research Says About the Atlantic Diet

The study published last week wasn’t the first to examine the Atlantic diet. A 2010 study found the Atlantic diet was linked to lower rates of non-fatal heart attacks. However, the researchers noted that this diet is not “optimal” when it comes to reducing ischemic heart disease risk.3

Another study published last year in the journal Molecular Psychiatry found an association between the Atlantic diet and a lower risk of depression. A similar association was also found with other healthy eating patterns, including the Mediterranean diet.4

“In other words, there may be several depression-friendly dietary patterns, not just one,” Adrián Carballo Casla, PhD, a postdoctoral researcher at the Aging Research Center of Karolinska Institutet and lead author of the study, told Verywell in an email.

Carballo Casla led another study last year that linked the Atlantic diet to lower rates of death, cancer, and heart disease. The study included about 36,000 people between the ages of 18 and 96 who live throughout Europe.

Should You Try the Atlantic Diet?

There is some evidence to support the Atlantic diet as a healthy option, but that doesn’t mean this is the right eating pattern for everyone. People who live on the Atlantic coast of Spain and Portugal may have easier access to fresh seafood, unprocessed whole foods, and wine. However, it might be challenging or costly to replicate their diet outside of the regions.

“If I’m from South America and I don’t have access to those foods, am I going to be culturally attracted to diet, even though it might promise that I’m going live longer?” Arévalo said.

Cultural traditions and your unique health needs should be considered when starting a new eating plan, she said.

“We can’t all eat the same, the same way that we all don’t take the same medication and don’t grow the same. We need to start thinking we’re all different and we need to eat differently to meet our individual needs,” Arévalo said.

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