Mediterranean diet and chronic pain

Updated: Apr 5, 2021

What does the Mediterranean diet consist of ?

We live in a world where we are constantly bombarded with information and it sometimes becomes difficult to know what is true and what is not. So, together we will demystify the Mediterranean diet. In this blog, we will discuss scientific studies related to the Mediterranean diet and chronic pain, the famous pyramid, 9 tips for incorporating diet into your eating habits, as well as a summary table.

Why integrate the Mediterranean diet into my eating habits?

The Mediterranean Diet is based on the eating habits of people living in Mediterranean regions such as Greece, Italy, France, Spain and Morocco. Several scientific articles indicate the benefits of consuming a Mediterranean diet to reduce mortality rates by 10% (1), cardiovascular disease (CVD) by 28-30% (2), type 2 diabetes (3) and the risks of depression (4).

A few scientific articles also demonstrate the importance of the Mediterranean diet in the management of chronic pain. One study in particular demonstrated that “the Mediterranean diet plays a critical role in bone health in women with fibromyalgia "(5). Another study describes that" diet interventions are a particularly promising therapeutic treatment for chronic pain, many studies suggest that diet has a noticeable effect on pain down to the cellular level ‘’ (6). Clinical data from this study shows that the Mediterranean diet is one of the diets that has a significant effect on oxidative stress and inflammation. Oxidative stress is a reaction produced in our body to counter the free radicals that come from our food. Normally, our body is able to neutralize these free radicals. However, when consumed in large quantities or if the body is under any stress, the levels of free radicals become too high to handle. Then this can cause damage to the cells, resulting in inflammation, a factor contributing to chronic pain.

As you can see, what we eat has a big impact on our quality of life. The Mediterranean Diet is not a miracle diet; however, several benefits have been shown by scientific studies such as reduced risk of CVD and that insulin resistance can cause inflammation, also contributing to chronic pain. Due to its simplicity, it is easy to incorporate into people's pre-established eating habits.

The pyramid!

The Mediterranean diet is often represented by the concept of a pyramid.

At the bottom of the pyramid, we can find the importance of a lifestyle that emphasizes meals with family or friends, taking the time to prepare homemade meals, in addition to eating small portions of quality and unprocessed foods. Moreover, the emphasis is also placed on a balanced lifestyle and eating habits based on the consumption of fresh

seasonal produce, to be well rested and active (150 minutes of physical activity per week, during a period of at least 10 minutes or more at a time).

Subsequently, if we move up one box, we can observe a variety of foods that are most encouraged to eat on a daily basis. Since they are rich in fiber, omega-3 as well as monounsaturated fatty acid such as fruits, whole-grain products, vegetables, legumes (beans, peas, lentils), olive oil extra virgin, nuts, seeds, herbs, and spices.

If we look in the next category, we find foods eaten in moderate quantities such as fish, seafood, vegetable, and animal proteins (chicken, eggs, cheese, yogurt, milk) and red wine.

And at the top are products consumed occasionally such as red meat and sweets.

Written by Karolyne Tremblay, nutrition student


  1. Mortiliaty: A Systematic Review and Dose Response Meta-Anaylsis of Prospective Cohort Studies. Adv Nutr. 2019 Nov 1:10(6):1029-1039

  2. Estruch R, Rose E, Salas-Savlaldo J, Covas, MI, Corella D, Aro F, et al. Primary Prevention of cardiovascular disease with a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra virgin olive oil and nuts. N Engl J Med,.2018 Jun 21: 378 (25): e34 doi:10.1056/NEJMoa1800389

  3. Jannashc F, Kroger J, Schulze MB. Dietary patterns and type 2 diabetes: A systematic literature review and meta-analyses of prospective studies. J Nutr. 147(6):1174-1182.

  4. Jacka FN, O’Neil A, Opie R, Itsiopoulos C et al. A randomised controlled trial of dietary improvement for adults with major depression“SMILES” trial. BMC Med. 2017;15:23.

  5. Correa-Rodriguez, Maria, El Mansouri-Yachou, Jamal, Tapia-Haro, Rosa, Molina, Francisco, Rus, Alma, Rueda-Medina, Blanca, et al. (2019). Mediterranean Diet, Body Composition, and Activity Associated With Bone Health in Women With Fibromyalgia Syndrome. Nursing Research, 68, 358-364.

  6. Kaushik, A. S., Strath, L. J., & Sorge, R. E. (2020). Dietary Interventions for Treatment of Chronic Pain: Oxidative Stress and Inflammation. Pain and therapy, 9(2), 487–498.

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