Food February 15, 2024

What is the Atlantic diet? How a Spanish, Portuguese-inspired diet could reduce metabolic syndrome risk

WATCH: What to know about 'the Atlantic Diet'

The Mediterranean diet focuses on healthy eating habits popularized in countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea and has been hailed the best overall diet for seven years straight, boasting a range of health benefits. But a new study has found a fresh culinary contender -- the Atlantic diet -- popularized recently for focusing on foods eaten in Portugal and Spain along the Atlantic coast.

"It's kind of like a cousin to the Mediterranean diet," ABC News medical correspondent Dr. Darien Sutton said Thursday on "Good Morning America."

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"This diet is very similar in terms of avoiding processed foods the same way the Mediterranean diet does," Dr. Sutton explained. "But you see a moderate amount of red meat consumption, more whole grains, more starches, they're unrefined. But again, the main similarity between the two is they are avoiding processed foods."

Health benefits of the Atlantic diet

Most importantly, Sutton said the study found that the Atlantic diet was specifically associated with a 68% decreased risk of developing metabolic syndrome.

Metabolic syndrome is "a cluster of syndromes that include insulin insensitivity -- when your body doesn't respond to insulin that raises your blood sugar," Sutton said. "It's also associated with cholesterol, it's also associated with blood pressure that makes it damaging to our blood vessels and increases our risk of heart disease and strokes."

Those who ate the Atlantic diet, according to the study, were 10% less likely to have abdominal obesity and 42% less likely to develop an additional feature of metabolic syndrome.

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However, researchers reported no measurable difference in blood pressure or blood sugar levels.

Sutton also said there are some things he would back away from within the Atlantic diet.

"We know red meat can be harmful for our colon, specifically increasing our risk of colon cancer, so I'd definitely keep that moderate," he said.

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While there's not much difference between the two diets, and more research exists on the Mediterranean diet in terms of cardiovascular risk factors, Sutton said that "if you think this diet fits you, there can still be tremendous benefits."

As always, consult a primary care physician or dietitian before making a change to your diet.

"If you can sustain it, I say go for it," Sutton said.