Is The Mediterranean Diet Still Considered Healthy?
Patricia Zifferblatt | May 15, 2004

By now you probably know that eating a Mediterranean diet can significantly and positively impact health and quality of life. In this time of high-protein and low-carbohydrate diets, many people are confused about which is the best dietary plan.

What is the basis of a Mediterranean diet?
In the early 1950s a University of Minnesota researcher named Ancel Keys prompted interest in the Mediterranean diet with the publication of The Seven Countries Study. The diet in this study consisted of moderate fat and carbohydrate intake, including eating a variety of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans, peas, and other legumes, monounsaturated fats, plus regular physical activity. It emphasized the use of olive oil instead of the other oils and fats in the diet of this era, primarily poly-fats and margarines.

And what were the results?
The study showed what has now been accepted for many years:

The Mediterranean diet has long been associated with decreased cardiovascular disease.

Many years after the Keys study, the Lyon Diet Heart Study again confirmed that principle. The decreased heart disease in people of Lyon, France, who ate a Mediterranean diet then led a group of researchers to start thinking: If this diet can help prevent cardiovascular disease, could it also help to increase longevity? Since many people believe that only God can lengthen life, this was indeed a big question!

The Harvard School of Public Health in conjunction with the University of Athens, Greece, recruited 22,043 men, aged 20-86 years for the study. A food-and-lifestyle questionnaire was developed so the researchers could better understand which foods were actually consumed on a daily basis by the men--not just a theoretical belief that all the men ate the same foods. Total calories and exercise were also recorded. The researchers found that a higher degree of adherence to the Mediterranean diet was positively associated with physical activity. In addition, adherence to the diet appeared to decrease the risk of death from both cardiovascular disease and cancer, although the data were stronger in protecting against cardiovascular disease mortality.

So what does this mean, diet-wise?
This quote from Nutrition Update, Winter 2003, on the Harvard University-Athens study sums it up well:

It would seem, based on these data, that the best diet for overall health is not necessarily low fat or low carbohydrates, but one that is balanced, varied, and moderate.

We at Better Life Unlimited have been endorsing and teaching a Mediterranean diet in all our programs for many years. We encourage the consumption of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, peas and legumes, lean meats, fish, poultry, and monounsaturated oils, as well as a regular exercise program to include both aerobic and weight-bearing exercises. The research has shown this to be the path, and who are we to argue with the experts?
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