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When People in Med Countries Don’t Eat a Med Diet

January 12, 2011

We woke up yesterday to see a new study making the rounds, with headlines screaming, “Mediterranean Diet: Alarmingly High Cardiovascular Risk Factors Found in Mediterranean People” and “Image of Healthy Mediterranean Diet and Lifestyle Challenged.”

Say what? The Med Diet is the gold standard for good health, with hundreds, even thousands, of peer-reviewed studies proving its worth. What’s going on here? Gotta click through and read the full story.

Here’s the deal. Spanish scientists studied 2,270 adults age 18 to 80 in Malaga, Spain, and found that more than 60% were overweight or obese, and 77% did not get enough exercise.  What’s more, 28% smoked, 33% had high blood pressure, and 65% had high cholesterol.  Lead author Dr. Anthony Wierzbicki concluded, “The myth that the Mediterranean diet and lifestyle is so healthy is based on 40-year old data from rural areas and so much has changed during those four decades.”

A-ha! This study isn’t about the Mediterranean Diet at all – it’s about the diet – the mix of foods – that happens to be eaten today, by people who happen to live in a Mediterranean country. It’s as if a bunch of scientists went to Beijing, noticed poor health among urbanites lured to a Western, fast-food diet, and said, “Oh dear, Chinese food is unhealthy.”

The Mediterranean Diet is a specific approach to delicious, healthy eating, not a geographical catch-all. Living in Spain, or Italy, or Lebanon, or Tunisia isn’t the key to good health Med-style; instead, it’s all about eating a largely plant-based diet full of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, olive oil, fish, and other good things. Eating the Med way is something anyone can do, no matter where they happen to live. The study above proves only that too many Spaniards have abandoned their traditional Mediterranean Diet for one far less healthy.

People like those in the study, in fact, could regain their good health by returning to the Med Diet. Our friend Dr. Marta Garaulet, who runs a chain of weight-loss clinics in Spain, can attest to that. As her website says, “After years of research Marta has concluded that one of the most important factors in the development of obesity is the food, far ahead of other endocrine factors, metabolic factors, and genetics, with the Mediterranean Diet one key piece in preventing and treating this multifactorial disease called “obesity.”

It’s a sad truth that many Mediterranean countries, like Spain, have turned their back on the Med Diet. This fact gave impetus to UNESCO’s recent designation of the Mediterranean Diet as an important cultural heritage, worthy of promotion and protection. With new emphasis on a return to the traditional Med Diet in countries like Italy and Spain, we hope in the coming years to see Dr. Wierzbicki and his team publishing new results, showing Spaniards returning to good health.

– Sara and Cindy

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Catherine Lessard permalink
    January 12, 2011 7:03 pm

    I can totally vouch for this. I lived in Spain with a family and they were not at all the perfect picture of health. Nor did they eat the perfect Mediterranean diet. They ended up asking me how it was that I maintained a healthy weight. They ate processed American brand cereals, lots of fried fish, cookies, etc. Due to globalization, many countries have adopted our habits and many mediterranean countries have followed. In Spain, it was seen as a really cool thing to eat American foods, especially for the young people. The classic Mediterranean diet is a great one, the problem is that the Mediterranean countries have lost some of their roots.

  2. January 13, 2011 12:11 am

    I enjoy your articles. Thank you.

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