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True Mediterranean Diet for Good Health

8 Sep

Ancel Keys, 96 is credited to the popularity of the Mediterranean diet. As a young scientist 50 years ago, Keys made the connection between where people lived, food they ate, and their state of health.  He found that people in Greece, Southern Italy, southern France and parts of North Africa and the Middle Eat ate a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables, used olive oil and ate more fish. He compared this to the North American diet of foods high in saturated fat, beef and cheese. He found that heart disease, which was rare in countries with Mediterranean diet, was the leading cause of death in North America.  However, while the old fashioned Mediterranean diet might have been better modern day diet with white bread, pasta and white rice have been linked to increased risk of certain cancers, particularly thyroid, colon and stomach cancers. Italian fettuccine alfredo is laden with saturated fats.  A serving of fried calamari may have the cholesterol equivalent of a four-egg omelet.  These are not the kinds of food that Keys was talking about.

“The Mediterranean diet was nearly vegetarian, with fish and very little meat, and was rich in green vegetables and fruits,” says Keys, who is now a professor emeritus at the University of Minnesota. People living on Crete got more than one-third of their calories from fat, most of it from olive oil, which is rich in monounsaturated fatty acids. They also consumed wine every day.  Recapturing the Mediterranean Ideal  Here are a few tips from Dr. Keys: 1. Fill your plate with fresh fruits and vegetables. The people of Crete were called mangifolia, which means “leaf-eaters,” because they consumed so many leafy green vegetables, foraged from the steep hillsides of the island. Fruits and vegetables are low in calories and fat and very rich in nutrients, including cancer-fighting antioxidants. 2. If you’re dining out, look for entrees with plenty of vegetables and very little cream or cheese— a vegetarian pasta tossed in olive oil and a little parmesan cheese, for instance, or grilled fish served with steamed vegetables. 3. When buying bread, choose loaves made with whole grains and flours.Refined foods cause blood sugar levels to spike because they are so easily digested, says David Jacobs Jr, PhD, professor of epidemiology at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. Less processed, whole grain ones provide a more sustained level of energy over a longer period, making them more healthful, says Keys. 4. For dessert, choose something that provides one serving of fruit.  How about baked apple slices, sprinkled lightly with cinnamon and sugar.  

Mediterranean diets shows promise

2 Jul

Mediterranean diet beats

low-fat regime for heart

 health: researchers


Last Updated: Monday, July 2, 2007 | 5:55 PM ET

CBC News

Spanish researchers are predicting that a traditional Mediterranean diet including olive oil or nuts can reduce heart problems. Two groups of study subjects who added olive oil or nuts to their diets did better than people on a low-fat diet, researchers with PREDIMED, a long-term trial looking at the Mediterranean diet, said in a news release Monday.“After the three-month intervention period, the two groups following the Mediterranean diet were compared with the low-fat diet group and showed lower blood pressure and decreased blood glucose levels, cholesterol, triglycerides and inflammation markers,” said Dr. Ramon Estruch, general co-ordinator of PREDIMED in Barcelona.The subjects also had higher HDL (good) cholesterol levels.After reporting early results, “it’s easy to foresee that the participants who follow the Mediterranean diet supplemented with olive oil or with nuts will show in the long run a 50 per cent reduction in the incidence of cardiovascular complications,” he predicted.A Mediterranean diet is rich in legumes, whole grains, fish, nuts, fruits, vegetables and olives, but contains little meat and dairy products; as a result it is low in saturated fat and high in monounsaturated fat and dietary fibre.


The investigators tested 372 subjects aged 55 to 80 with a high risk of coronary heart disease. One group of 121 was put on a low-fat diet, a second group ate the traditional Mediterranean diet supplemented with a litre a week of free olive oil and a third group ate the traditional diet with 30 grams of free nuts — mostly walnuts — a day.After three months, oxidized low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or bad cholesterol) fell in the two groups following the traditional diet, but there was no change in the low-fat group.The study, published in the June 11 edition of the Archives of Internal Medicine, was the first to test what many people had suspected, said Estruch.Because the Mediterranean diet is rich in antioxidants found in fruits and vegetables, “a lot of people simply figured that it would be beneficial. But nobody has tested the antioxidant effects of this dietary pattern in a randomized trial,” he said.The researchers are looking ahead to a test of 9,000 people, expected to be completed in late 2010.PREDIMED is supported by the Spanish Health Ministry. It includes 17 groups of Spanish researchers in 200 health centres in the country.LDL cholesterol promotes the buildup of plaque in artery walls, reducing the flow of blood, which greatly increases the risk of heart attack.There is also evidence that the Mediterranean diet can significantly protect against Alzheimer’s disease.

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