3 Things to Know About the New Mediterranean Diet Study

Nut MixUnless you’ve been living under a rock, you must have heard this week’s news about a new Spanish study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, that has shown that the Mediterranean Diet can drastically help decrease the chance of heart disease.

How drastic? A 30% reduction in the chance to have a heart attack or stroke! The scientists were so stoked that they cut the study short and rushed to publish its findings! But while the headlines were full of promise, delving a bit deeper into the details shows a more balanced picture.

1. The study was specifically conducted on older people (aged 55-80) who were at high risk for cardiovascular disease. If you are at a low risk, or are younger, results may be different.

2. The study was conducted on people who live in a Mediterranean country. Can we say that the same study conducted in the US would have had the same result?

3. The control group used in the study consumed a low fat diet, not a regular diet that most Spaniards ages 55-80 are used to. Maybe it’s the low fat diet that increased the chances of heart disease?

OK, now that we got this out of the way, let’s be clear: we most certainly advocate the dietary choices of the Mediterranean Diet. By way of reminder, this means:

  • less red meat, more fish
  • less saturated fats, more healthy fats from nuts and olive oil
  • more vegetables and fruits
  • red wine

Most of this advice has been around for a long time. If you are having trouble switching to this kind of diet, may we suggest an easy first step when it comes to snack time?

Start by swapping out some of your chocolate candy snacks with nuts. Almonds, walnuts, cashews, pecans – whatever tickles your fancy. Mixes too. You can buy them for cheap in bulk. Make sure to have a portion or two ziplocked in your bag for when you get the munchies.

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  • Brian

    I think one of the keys is to mention that you should use olive oil, not other vegetable oils. And there is evidence that if the saturated fat if sourced properly, it is actually a protecting factor for heart disease. See this article and the study referenced. What’s disturbing is this evidence has been around for a long time, and the scientists are either ignoring the results or just not smart enough to read the data. Low fat, low cholesterol diets actually help hasten your chances of getting heart disease, cancer and all cause mortality.

  • Brooke

    Do the nuts need to be raw to get the proper benefit?

    • http://www.fooducate.com/ Fooducate

      Not necessarily. But roasted nuts usually come with a lot of sodium as well.

  • Christina
  • Christina

    Dont believe everything you hear

     ”participants in the “low-fat” group made no real change in their diets. In the “low-fat” group, total fat consumption decreased insignificantly from 39 to 37 percent. Why was so little effort placed on teaching and then testing a really healthy low-fat diet like mine (the McDougall Diet is 7 percent fat), and then comparing it with the Mediterranean diet? There was no financial interest in pursuing this end.  The vested interest was in selling olive oil and nuts. Two companies supplied the olive oil (Hojiblanca and Patrimonio Comunal Olivarero), and the nuts came from a nut producer in Spain (La Morella Nuts) and the California Walnut Commission. Plus many of the authors have extensive financial ties to food, wine, and other industry groups.”

    • Brian Klein

      What if they aren’t even thinking about needing 7% fat or higher or lower or whatever. What if the factor that was helping them is that they are eating whole foods as mother nature intended, and nothing processed. So maybe it wouldn’t matter if you ate red meat, so long as it was raised in a manner consistent with how these animals are traditionally meant to live (show me a study where this has been done? Conventionally raised meat is a crime.) Or you were completely vegan and ate a completely whole foods diet, and not a bunch of GMO manufactured soy? I think health and longevity would be more or less solved, and you wouldn’t see huge differences in health across different populations.

      • Christina

        I completely agree Brian. Personally, I think oil even olive oil is an unnecessary processed item that no one “needs” to eat to be healthy. Quite the opposite as a lot of oils become rancid and toxic when cooked or fried with. But vested interests can make the numbers always look in there favor.

        • Brian Klein

          A lot of olive oil is actually canola oil (or other vegetable oils) mixed with olive oil. And the point about cooking with them is well taken… olive oil should be cooked gently at low temps. Really, it should be used mostly as a dressing in salads, and such. Coconut is a great alternative to cook with, as it handles the heat better.

          • Tyler

            I am sure that would be the case if you buy olive oil from any run-of-the-mill producer, or one who does not consider consumer safety paramount. So is the case with most other things in life; it’s not surprising. I use olive oil for every cooking task. I did consider coconut oil, but the saturated fat content didn’t look appealing.

          • http://www.fooducate.com/ Fooducate

            actually the smoke point of olive oil is high enough to make it suitable for sautes. It’s olive oil’s dominant flavor that gets in the way of many dishes.

    • Brian Klein

      Amen to the vested interests in studies, as well. If you look at the other article I posted, it’s exactly what happened. They chose to ignore certain data because they wanted to prove that vegetable oils lowered cholesterol. They do, but they also cause premature death. That part was left out. I’m guessing there are many more studies done it this nature.

  • Jenn

    Gotta love a diet that’s 4th point of focus is red wine! ;)