Doctor In Your House: Mediterranean Diet lowers rates of adverse cardiovascular events

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Whether you are in your physician's office or seated at the dinner table, many of our dietary discussions include the Mediterranean diet. This diet has been in the news lately because it appears to be beneficial to human health. In a primary prevention trial, the Mediterranean diet modestly outperformed a low-fat diet. Based mostly on observational studies, the diet is believed to reduce cardiovascular disease. Recently, Spanish doctors have conducted a large, randomized, primary-prevention trial to determine the diet's true effectiveness.

Approximately 7500 people between the ages of 55 and 80, without known heart disease but with cardiac risk factors such as diabetes, were randomized to one of three diets:

1) Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil (at least 4 tablespoons daily)
2) Mediterranean diet supplemented with a daily 30-g serving of walnuts, almonds, and hazelnuts
3) Low-fat control group

The primary composite outcome after five years included heart attack, stroke and death from heart disease. Such events occurred significantly less often in the two Mediterranean diet groups than in the control group. The Mediterranean diet therefore can improve the overall quality of our lives.

Doctor's Summary: The Mediterranean diet has reduced overall mortality in some trials. In 2009, New York researchers found that high adherence to both the Mediterranean diet and exercise led to a reduction in senility. This dietary lifestyle has been shown to reduce death from cancer, heart disease and stroke. The Mediterranean diet consists of fruits, vegetables, nuts, fish, unprocessed grains, a little alcohol, and olive oil. Minimal meat and sweets are consumed. Poultry, eggs and cheeses are somewhat restricted.

Click on this link for more information: Mediterranean Diet Studies

Unfortunately, we treated our bodies with more respect during the 1800's than we do today. At that time, sugar consumption was one thousandth of what it is now. Going back further in time, CAT scans of mummies indicate very little coronary heart disease because reduced carbohydrate consumption in ancient times lowered sugar, reduced cholesterol and decreased blockages in their vessels. Essentially, the ancient Egyptians followed a Mediterranean diet.

Consumers should make better food choices. The food industries will rise to meet their needs. Your grocery dollars speak their language. Physical education and nutrition should be taught to children beginning in the first grade. At least if adults are too addicted to sugary foods, our kids will turn the tide of obesity through better education.

In 420 B.C. Hippocrates said, "Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food." I completely agree. Sounds to me like a forward thinker. He also said that we should exercise daily. He lived to be 90 years old during a time when the average lifespan was estimated to be 30 years of age. Studies show the Mediterranean diet is beneficial to our health. I advise everyone to seriously consider it.

Dr. Evan Lipkis, MD, is a physician, author and lecturer based in Glenview, Illinois. The advice contained in this column is for informational purposes only. Readers should consult with their physician to evaluate any illness or medical condition. Contact Dr. Lipkis through his web site at: