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Let’s Not Piecemeal the Mediterranean Diet!

June 25, 2009

Snapshot 2009-06-25 12-07-29

Yesterday, Good Morning America reported on a new study about the Mediterranean Diet, which it (rightfully!) referred to as “the Holy Grail of diets… to improve survival.” You can read the article and watch the video here.

The study, published in the British Medical Journal and authored by our good friends Antonia Trichopoulou, MD, PhD, University of Athens Medical School and Dimitrios Trichopoulos, MD, PhD, Harvard School of Public Health (with Christina Bamia, also of Athens Medical School) confirms what we’ve known all along: eating a Mediterranean Diet is good for longer life.

The study, which followed more than 23,000 people for a mean of 8.5 years,  identified key components that contribute to this outcome:

  • High consumption of vegetables, fruits and nuts, olive oil and legumes (beans)
  • Low consumption of meat and meat products
  • Moderate consumption of  ethanol (in the Mediterranean Diet that means wine with meals)

This sounds just like the recommendations of the updated Mediterranean Diet Pyramid that Oldways released in November  2008. You may wonder why Mediterranean ingredients universally recognized as healthy, such as fish or whole grains, weren’t in that main group.  This is because participants in the study were not eating enough of these to make a statistical difference. As the nutrition scientists (including Dr. Trichopoulou) who met last year to update the Mediterranean Diet Pyramid determined, a target of eating fish at least twice per week and making grains (mostly whole) a main staple of our diets is a good place to start. In fact, the Mediterranean Diet, the icon of healthy eating patterns, has been intensely studied since the 1950s and consistently includes whole grains, fish and seafood as foods to be consumed regularly.

While this new study focused on individual components, most Mediterranean Diet studies have noted the healthfulness of the “whole diet.” Instead of isolating various foods which are “good” or “bad,” the traditional Mediterranean Diet is about a lifestyle that includes eating from a well-rounded menu of largely plant life, fish and seafood, moderate amounts of dairy, eggs and poultry, plus regular exercise, a glass of wine a day, and enjoying the company of friends and family.  What could be better than that?

If you have any other questions, please feel free to contact us. Cheers!

2 Comments leave one →
  1. June 25, 2009 5:09 pm

    It makes sense to me to try and identify which specific components of the Mediterranean diet may be the healthiest.

    Take dairy products, for example. I know many people who just don’t partake of them, and won’t. Maybe they don’t need to worry about it. There are other sources of calcium and vitamin D.

    I’m just playing devil’s advocate. Cheese and yogurt are time-honored components of the Mediterranean diet.


  2. June 25, 2009 6:25 pm

    Note that enjoying food with family and friends is part of the Med diet – happiness is important!

    This translates into breaking down the Med diet into good/bad foods as well; if I cut out all dairy, or all meat, etc. from my diet, I would be significantly less happy.

    Not only would I not be enjoying these foods, but it would also make dining out or at friends’ houses very difficult. So, emphasizing the whole diet is important for the “happiness” factor, too … at least in my opinion!

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