We now have a recent study out of Spain on the Mediterranean diet that finds a 30% reduction in heart attacks, deaths from heart disease and stroke. This study involving 7447 at risk people for almost five years, and it showed two things that I thought were quite significant: that a Mediterranean diet will deter heart problems and strokes, and people who go on this diet have a much easier time staying on it. The second point is really as important as the first, since the healthiest diet in the world that can't be adhered will be of no help to your health.
Two groups were given a diet to follow for an extended period of time. One was a Mediterranean diet, with a heavy emphasis on olive oil, nuts, fruits and vegetables, white meat instead of red, fish, as well as beans and lentils. Also, this group was allowed to have a glass of red wine per meal. The other group started with a low-fat diet.
It was soon found that those on the low-fat diet had difficulty staying with it, even with intensive counseling. Those on the Mediterranean diet stuck with it, clearly showing that a diet that is more fun to indulge in on a day-to-day basis can easily be maintained. Rule number one for any diet should be: it has to make eating a pleasant experience. Food is much too important a part of our lives to make it a chore, and if it is we'll just turn away from it.
So because the low-fat group pretty much abandon their diet and went back to what they normally would eat, the study became a comparison between the Mediterranean diet and the modern diet. And experts consider the results of this study to be very significant. First, they did not measure the results of the test by hypertension, weight gain or loss or cholesterol. They looked at actual heart attacks, stroke and death.
Secondly, most agree that these tests are the first that give more scientific confirmation that the Mediterranean diet does indeed lower rates of heart disease.
The diet until now seemed to confirm its link to better heart health, but it was mostly based on circumstantial evidence. In other words, people who ate this diet had lower incidence of heart disease, but other factors could have entered into the equation.
Not all diet experts are in agreement. Some, especially those who are low-fat advocates, feel the diet, particularly those who have weight problems, is too high in calories because of the high content in oils and nuts and should be avoided. It is undoubtedly true that excessive amounts of these high-calorie foods will make it difficult to maintain a good weight; a balanced diet without an excess of anything is always the best diet.
It always comes down to what appeals to the individual. Some people are sold on a vegan diet, and have no problem sticking to it throughout their lives. I personally couldn't survive a week on this diet, but that's just me. For many people, though, if they knew about the advantages of the Mediterranean diet and consumed it in moderation it would become even more popular than it is now.
Foods that make up the Mediterranean diet make for excellent meals, as can attest by the great dining found in the Mediterranean area. These new findings show that they are also great for heart health. Rich Carroll is a health enthusiast and writer living in London.
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