by Barbara L. Minton
(NaturalNews) Scientists are finding that those who choose to eat according to the principles of the Mediterranean diet have a lowered rate of death from all causes. Research has shown that the Mediterranean diet has a beneficial effect against cardiovascular disease and is a preventative against a second heart attack. Now we are seeing that this diet extends longevity by reducing deaths from all diseases including cancer.
Researchers reported in the December 10, 2007 Archives of Internal Medicine a prospective study to investigate the Mediterranean dietary pattern in relation to mortality, confirming suggestions that the diet plays a beneficial role for health and longevity.
The study participants included 214,284 men and 166,012 women in the National Institutes of Health-AARP Diet and Health Study. During follow up for all-cause mortality from 1995 to 2005, 27,799 deaths were documented. In the first 5 years of follow up 5,985 cancer deaths and 3,451 cardiovascular disease deaths were reported. The researchers used a nine point score to assess conformity with the Mediterranean diet pattern with components including vegetables, legumes, fruits, nuts, whole grains, fish, monounsaturated fat-saturated fat ratio, alcohol, and meat. They calculated hazard ratios and 95% confidence intervals using age and multivariate adjusted Cox models.
Results indicated that the Mediterranean diet was associated with reduced all-cause and cause-specific mortality. In men, the multivariate hazard ratios comparing high to low conformity for all-causes, CVD, and cancer mortality were 0.79, 0.78, and 0.83. In women, an inverse association was seen with high conformity within this pattern: decreased risks that ranged from 12% for cancer mortality to 20% for all-cause mortality.
Results from this study provide strong evidence of a beneficial effect from higher conformity with the Mediterranean dietary pattern on risk of death from all causes, including deaths due to cardiovascular disease and cancer in the a U.S. population.
Americans tend to associate the word diet with restriction and deprivation. But forget this definition because the Mediterranean diet is based on the abundance of foods found in the countries of the Mediterranean Basin. The word diet in the title is used in the traditional sense, meaning a way or style of eating.
The most commonly understood version of the diet was presented by Dr. Walter Willett of Harvard University's School of Public Health in the mid-1990s. It is a diet based on "food patterns typical of Crete, much of the rest of Greece, and southern Italy in the early 1960s", according to Willett.
The traditional Mediterranean diet has been interpreted into a Pyramid with daily physical activity at its base. Regular physical activity is seen as essential for promoting healthy weight, fitness and well-being. Typical exercises of the Mediterranean's might include walking, house cleaning, running, soccer, tennis, golf, swimming, hiking, scuba diving, ball games, skiing, surfing, yard work, dancing, weight lifting, and love making.
In ascending order, the Pyramid also includes:
* An abundance of food from plant sources, including fruits and vegetables, potatoes, breads and grains, beans, nuts and seeds. Common foods on this step include pasta, rice, couscous, and polenta.
* Emphasis on a variety of minimally processed and, wherever possible, seasonally fresh and locally grown foods. Common foods include olives, avocados, grapes, spinach, eggplant, tomatoes, broccoli, peppers, mushrooms, garlic, capers, almonds, walnuts, chick peas, white beans, lentils and other beans, and peanuts.
* Olive oil as the principle fat. Total fat can range from less than 25 percent to over 35 percent of calories, with saturated fat no more than 7 to 8 percent of calories.
* Daily consumption of low to moderate amounts of cheese and yogurt
* Weekly consumption of low to moderate amounts of fish. Common fish are shellfish and sardines.
* Weekly consumption of poultry, and from zero to four eggs per week including those used in cooking and baking.
* Sweets. Common sweets are pastries, ice cream and cookies
* Meat. Common meats are veal and lamb.
It's quite interesting that the base of the U.S. diet is often meat, but meat is at the top of the Mediterranean diet, recommended to be eaten less frequently than even sweets.
Alcohol, particularly red wine, may be consumed in moderation and with meals.
One of the main explanations for the beneficial effects of the diet is thought to be the large amount of olive oil which is seen as lowering cholesterol levels in the blood. It is also known to lower blood sugar levels and blood pressure. Research indicates that olive oil prevents peptic ulcers and is effective in treatment of peptic ulcer disease, and may be a factor in preventing cancer. The consumption of red wine is considered a possible factor, as it contains flavonoids with powerful antioxidant properties. Others suspect that is it not any one particular nutrient that confers the benefits, but rather the combination of nutrients found in this diet comprised of unprocessed foods.
The olive oil, nuts and fish of the diet contain beneficial omega-3 fatty acids. Studies have shown that omega-3 fatty acids lower triglycerides and may provide an anti-inflammatory effect helping to stabilize blood vessel lining.
The Seven Countries Study found that Cretan men had exceptionally low death rates from heart disease, despite moderate to high intake of fat. The Cretan diet is similar to other traditional Mediterranean diets, consisting mostly of olive oil, bread, fish, moderate amounts of dairy food and wine, and an abundance of fruit and vegetables.
The Lyon Diet Heart Study began as a copy of the Cretan diet, but resistance from the participants resulted in it taking a more pragmatic approach. Since the people were reluctant to move from butter to olive oil, they used a margarine based on rapeseed (canola) oil. The dietary change also included a 20% increase in vitamin C rich fruit and bread, and decreases in processed foods and red meat. This diet resulted in mortality from all causes being reduced by 70%. The study was so successful that an ethics committee decided to stop it prematurely so the results could be made immediately available to the public.
Since olive oil was not part of the diet in the Lyon Diet Heart Study, it would appear that it is not the single most important ingredient in the Mediterranean diet that it is often reported to be.
Incorporating the Mediterranean diet into your life
The principles of the diet can become part of your lifestyle based on the way you shop. Here are some things to remember.
All types of olive oil provide monounsaturated fat, but "extra virgin" olive oil is the least processed form and contains the highest levels of the protective plant compounds that provide antioxidant effects.
Walnuts contain high levels of omega-3 fatty acids. All nuts are very nutritionally dense foods, so they should not be eaten in large amounts. Two ounces of nuts a day is plenty. Choose soaked or sprouted nuts. They are available from several online dealers. Buy natural peanut better, preferably the kind you grind yourself at the store. This is also available online. Keep nuts on hand for a quick snack.
Eat a variety of whole fruits and vegetables every day. Shop by color. Your selection of fruits and vegetables should reflect all the colors in the produce section. Don't try to stock up a week's worth of fruits and vegetables. Shop more frequently so your selection is as fresh as you can get it.
Substitute wild caught fish and natural chicken for all other meats except your monthly dose of red meat.
Choose yogurt and cheeses made according to tradition. If you want low or no fat cheese, choose mozzarella or any cheese that has been traditionally made from skim milk. Stay away from any yogurt or cheese that advertises itself as reduced fat, low fat, or fat free.
And don't forget that the Mediterranean is a very sunny warm place where people feel at ease outside. Let the sun shine on you, and let a breeze kiss your skin when you can.
Mediterranean Diet May Be the Secret to Longevity
by Neli Stoyanova
The study used data from the National Institutes of Health's AARP Diet and Health Study which was based on surveys returned between 1995 to 1996 and a follow-up period of 5 years. Researchers looked at diet and mortality over 5 years in over 200,000 men and 180,000 women between the ages of 50 to 71.
Men and women whose eating patterns were closest to the Mediterranean diet were 21 percent less likely to die over five years compared to those whose diets were least Mediterranean-like.
Smokers who were not overweight, were found to nearly halve their risk of death. Deaths from any cause were significantly lower for both men and women in the Mediterranean diet group along with a significantly lower risk for death from cancer or cardiovascular disease.
Dr. Mitrou and colleagues suggest in their report published in the December 10, 2004 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine, that the Mediterranean-style of eating (rich in fish, raw fruits and vegetables, nuts and olive oil and low in red meat) has antioxidant and blood fat lowering effects.
A longitudinal study conducted in 11 European countries (The Healthy Aging HALE study) between 1988 and 2000 involved 1,507 apparently healthy men and 832 women, aged 70 to 90 years. Those participants who adhered to a Mediterranean diet, moderate alcohol use, physical activity and were non-smokers had a lower risk of all-cause mortality and mortality from cardiovascular diseases and cancer - regardless of age, sex, years of education, or body mass index (as an indicator of being overweight or obese).
Data showed that individuals of age 70 to 90 years eating a Mediterranean-like diet, who were non-smokers, moderately consumed alcohol, and engaged in physical activity were associated with a more than 50% lower rate of over all and cause-specific mortality.
The protective effect of the Mediterranean diet on asthma and respiratory allergies was studied among 700 children living on the Greek island of Crete (data published in Thorax 4/2007). The effect of the Mediterranean diet was strongest on allergic rhinitis, but it was also protective against asthma.
Simple Ways to Blend the Mediterranean Diet Into Your Life
by Enrico Forte
(NaturalNews) The main aspect of the Mediterranean diet is the high consumption of fresh fruits and 1 glass a day of red wine. Recent studies confirm the health benefits of this diet in preventing cancer and heart disease.
The Mediterranean diet is an ancient eating habit used by the Mediterranean people. It's not a strict diet but a philosophy to approach foods.
It's based on 7 simple foods categories:
* Fresh fruit (Apples, Pears, berries, oranges, lemons)
* Vegetables (tomatoes, peppers, garlic, onions, eggplants, zucchini)
* Pasta and bread
* Meat (poultry, rabbit, fish, goat)
* Red wine
* Milk and Cheese (from sheep)
An example of a typical eating day is based on 5 phases
* Snack (11:00 AM)
* Snack (18:00 PM)
The basic concept of this diet is the "Unique plate". It means to join together different food categories.
Some examples are:
* Pasta with beans (fiber, carbs and veg. proteins)
* Pizza (veg, proteins and carbs)
* Greek salads (veg. and fruit)
Why is the Mediterranean diet so important for our health? The answer is simple: "Its foods contain healthy elements". A good example of this concept are Polyphenols. Apples and Red wines are a great source of Polyphenols. According to wikipedia, 'Polyphenols are a group of chemical substances found in plants, characterized by the presence of more than one phenol group per molecule.'
These chemicals can be found in high levels in the skins of fruits. They have an anti-oxidant effect that reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer. Every one of us knows that eating fresh fruits daily helps in the prevention of cancer and other diseases. Do you remember the ancient saying: "An apple a day keeps the doctor away"? There is ample evidence to show that this idea is true. A new study conduced by the Italian cancer league (www.legatumori.it) confirms it.
Researchers have demonstrated that eating Apples helps in reducing the cancer cells of:
* 40-60% (Consumption of apples and the skin)
* 30-40% (Consumption of just the apple pulp)
Other recent studies have shown that eating apples helps to:
* Prevent the growth of prostate cancer cells (Thanks to the presence of the flavonoid Quercetin, an anti-oxidant)
* Inhibit the growth of colon cancer cells (thanks to the skin of apples)
* Reduce the risk of lung cancer
* Inhibits the development of bladder cancer (especially in smokers)
Another great source of polyphenols is Red wine.
In the November 2007 issue of The FASEB Journal (http://www.fasebj.org), some French researches found that polyphenols play a beneficial role on the heart and circulatory system. Polyphenols found in the skin and around the pips of red grapes (not White) facilitate the growth of blood vessels.
The quantity of polyphenols necessary to obtain these benefits are the equivalent of 1 glass of wine a day. The wines that boast the biggest amount of polyphenols are those using Tannat (a red wine grape grown in southern France).
Here are some tips to optimize your health through diet:
* Eat fruit out of the principal meals - You can use it as a snack. (Helpful to lose weight too)
* Eat 2 fruits at least 2 times a day (2 apples or 1 apple with orange/grape juice is a good start)
* Substitute fatty snacks with a home-made apple pie or fresh fruits or nuts.
* Drink a glass of red wine a day (Best during dinner time)