Mediterranean Diet As Medicine
Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, famously declared: “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” Although he lived thousands of years ago, his message still resonates today.
Consider the latest findings from a massive, longterm study underway in Europe. The PREDIMED study is examining the purported health benefits of the Mediterranean diet. Over the years, this ongoing study has shown that the Mediterranean diet—featuring vegetables, fruits, fish, olives, olive oil, whole grains, nuts, herbs, wine, and some lean meat and dairy—is among the healthiest diets on the planet.
Now they’ve shown that a Mediterranean-style diet, with added extra virgin olive oil and/or nuts, may reverse the metabolic syndrome in older people at increased risk for heart disease.
The “metabolic syndrome” is a term for a cluster of conditions; a set of risk factors, really, such as central obesity (belly fat), high blood pressure, high blood sugar, high cholesterol, etc., which put a person at significantly increased risk for heart disease and diabetes.
People who followed a Mediterranean diet or a low-fat diet for about five years experienced significant decreases in central obesity and declining blood sugar levels. Many no longer met the criteria for metabolic syndrome. And that’s a decidedly good thing. About one-quarter of all adults around the world are now believed to have the metabolic syndrome.
Some of the highlights of the study that stand out for me are these: Nuts are good for you. Extra-virgin olive oil is also extremely good for you. And finally, this tidbit: the Mediterranean diet is naturally low in simple carbohydrates, such as sugar.
Nancy Babio, Estefanía Toledo, Ramón Estruch, Emilio Ros, Miguel A. Martínez-González, Olga Castañer, Mònica Bulló, Dolores Corella, Fernando Arós, Enrique Gómez-Gracia, Valentina Ruiz-Gutiérrez, Miquel Fiol, José Lapetra, Rosa M. Lamuela-Raventos, Lluís Serra-Majem, Xavier Pintó, Josep Basora, José V. Sorlí, Jordi Salas-Salvadó. Mediterranean diets and metabolic syndrome status in the PREDIMED randomized trial. CMAJ, October 2014 DOI: 10.1503/cmaj.140764