Doctor's Review: Medicine on the Move

October 23, 2017

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Why the Mediterranean diet and not ours?

Studies on the Mediterranean diet are no longer observational. More recent ones are interventional, looking for specific measurable end points. Eating a Mediterranean diet means increasing your consumption of vegetables and fruits, whole grains and legumes, olive oil, nuts, fish and chicken. You eat fewer eggs, less dairy, red meat and, of course, sweets. This is in sharp contrast to our current recommendations that tell us to decrease saturated fat. We are to lower the total fat content of our diet and reduce our sodium intake.

Cardiovascular disease

A multi-centre trial was conducted in Spain from 2003 to 2010 that included 7447 people between the ages of 55 and 80 with type 2 diabetes or at least three risk factors for the development of heart disease.1 There were three arms to the trial: a control group told how to eat a standard low-fat diet, a Mediterranean diet group that took supplemental virgin olive oil and a second Mediterranean diet group receiving supplemental mixed nuts (walnuts, almonds and hazelnuts). The incidence of major cardiac events, particularly stroke, was significantly reduced in the two Mediterranean diet groups. There did not seem to be any particular food associated with better outcomes, rather the dietary pattern seems to be responsible.

Metabolic syndrome

A study done in Italy confirmed that metabolic syndrome, impaired fasting glucose, insulin resistance and microinflammation were reduced the more closely a person followed the Mediterranean diet.2 Patients filled out a validated questionnaire to determine how closely they were following the diet. The only habit that had a significant impact on any end point was the consumption of red meat. The more red meat a person ate, the higher the hsCRP.

Fatty liver

A small crossover study addressed whether the Mediterranean diet would have an effect on non-alcoholic fatty liver disease or on insulin sensitivity.3 Participants following the Mediterranean diet were compared to a control group that ate a low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet. Liver steatosis was reduced and insulin sensitivity improved among participants on the Mediterranean diet, even though the weight loss in both groups was similar.

No adverse side effects were noted among those following the Mediterranean diet. So why are we still simply telling patients that a few modifications is all it takes to achieve wellness? It goes beyond the salt and fat to a broader way in which we eat. It’s time we bring Canada closer to the Mediterranean.

This article was accurate when it was published. Please confirm rates and details directly with the companies in question.

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