Category Archives: Mediterranean Diet

Mediterranean Diet Associated with 41% Risk Reduction for Age-Related Macular Degeneration, a Common Cause of Blindness

Photo of the retina at the back of the eyeball, where macular degeneration occurs

Not news to me…

“Protecting a patient’s eyes may be more heavily influenced by diet than previously thought. A new study, which analyzed data from a pair of previous study populations, found that people aged 55 and over who maintained a Mediterranean-style diet reduced their risk of developing late-stage age-related macular degeneration (AMD) by 41%.”

Source: Mediterranean Diet Associated with 41% Risk Reduction for AMD | MD Magazine

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Have I Been Wrong About the Mediterranean Diet for the Last 12 years?

Bastian is also skeptical about the health benefits of judicious alcohol consumption. Fair enough.

Hilda Bastian at PLOS Blogs wrote about the recent retraction of a PREDIMED sub-study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2013. The suspect conclusion of that study was: “Among persons at high cardiovascular risk, a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil or nuts reduced the incidence of major cardiovascular events.”

From Ms Bastian:

A very influential nutrition trial just tanked. It was retracted from the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) on 13 June, and re-published with new analyses and toned-down conclusions. Both Gina Kolata, writing in the New York Times, and Alison McCook, writing at NPR, imply, at least to some extent, that it might make no difference to the evidence. But I disagree.

Here’s what’s happened to the trial, and where I think it leaves the overall evidence. Called PREDIMED, it was a multi-center trial from Spain, with the NEJM final report published in 2013. Altogether, 7,447 people at risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) – heart attack and stroke – were reported as randomized to one of 3 groups:

  • Mediterranean diet with free olive oil provided, along with individual and group training sessions at the start, and then quarterly;
  • Mediterranean diet with free nuts provided, along with individual and group training sessions at the start, and then quarterly;
  • Advice to reduce fat intake, with a leaflet – but after the first 3 years, people in this control group were also offered individual and group training sessions.

The primary endpoint for the trial was a composite one of major cardiovascular events: myocardial infarction, stroke, or CVD-related death. And the trial was stopped early. More people dropped out of the control group than the Mediterranean diet groups.There are several alarm bells here already, and we’ll come back to those.

Source: What Does the PREDIMED Trial Retraction & Reboot Mean for the Mediterranean Diet? | Absolutely Maybe

I encourage you to read Ms Bastian’s article if you enjoy such debates. I consider the 2013 PREDIMED sub-study to be one of numerous pieces of the nutritional puzzle.

I published the 2nd edition of my Advanced Mediterranean Diet in 2012, so the 2013 PREDIMED sub-study was not available to me. At the end of my book you’ll find not one, but 43 scientific references supporting the healthfulness of the Mediterranean diet.

Steve Parker MD, Advanced Mediterranean Diet

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My Conquer Diabetes and Prediabetes book was also based predominantly on those 43 studies.

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Steve Parker, M.D.

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Healthful Mediterranean Diet Still Standing After All These Years

Dead whole fish aren’t very appealing to many folks

From Paul Greenberg’s opinion piece in the New York Times (July 19, 2018):

In 1953, not long before President Dwight Eisenhower suffered a heart attack in office, the social scientist Leland Allbaugh published “Crete: A Case Study of an Underdeveloped Area.” The landmark analysis of the eating patterns of an isolated Greek population strongly suggested that a calorie-limited diet high in fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and olive oil and low in animal protein, particularly red meat, could lower the risk of heart attacks and strokes, decrease chronic disease and extend life.

Medical research over the last half-century has largely borne out this initial finding. Weight-loss fads and eating trends come and go, but the so-called Mediterranean diet has stood fast. “Among all diets,” Dr. Walter Willett of Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health concluded in an email, “the traditional Mediterranean diet is most strongly supported for delivering long term health and wellbeing.”

Click for a more complete definition of the traditional Mediterranean Diet, which includes alcohol. More from Greenberg:

***

As the clinician Artemis Simopoulos pointed out to me, two meatless days a week are the norm in Greek Orthodox communities. This religious provision encouraged traditional communities to eat fish not only on Fridays but on Wednesdays as well. Recent epidemiological evidence links two portions of seafood a week with lower blood pressure, lower LDL cholesterol and lower triglycerides. In spite of this, American seafood consumption has stayed consistently low compared with other developed countries.

***

And for decades now, even Greeks have been abandoning their traditional foods and eating much more than they previously did. “In my view, the reason the diet worked to prevent heart disease on Crete was because they weren’t overeating,” said Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University. “By the time I got to Crete in the early 1990s, they were, and the hospitals were full of heart attacks and people with type 2 diabetes.”

***

Today, 65 years after Allbaugh returned from Crete, with modern America plagued by one of the highest obesity rates in the world and failing to meet life expectancy averages of almost every other developed nation, it’s worth circling back to the eating patterns of the ancients. For if the United States were to put itself on a Mediterranean diet, we would likely see huge improvements not only in human and environmental health, but also in rural economic stability.

RTWT for Greenberg’s roadmap to an American Mediterranean diet.

Steve Parker, M.D.

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Prevent Macular Degeneration With Mediterranean Diet

Photo of the retina at the back of the eyeball

I thought we knew this already. Yet another reason to love the Mediterranean diet. Macular degeneration is a leading cause of blindness in the developed world. Prevention is much better than treatment.

High adherence to a Mediterranean diet and regular physical activity seem to be protective factors for AMD in a Portuguese population. The effect of the diet is likely driven by the increased consumption of vegetables, fruits, and nuts.

Source: Adherence to a Mediterranean diet and its association with age-related macular degeneration. The Coimbra Eye Study–Report 4 – Nutrition

Hmmm…No mention of heart-healthy whole grains.

Steve Parker, M.D.

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Modified Mediterranean Diet Fights Depression

 

Olive oil is a prominent source of fat in the Mediterranean diet

From Dr. Emily Deans at Psychology Today:

This year, finally, we have the SMILES trial, the very first dietary trial to look specifically at a dietary treatment in a depressed population in a mental health setting. Participants met criteria for depression and many were already being treated with standard therapy, meds, or both. The designers of this trial took the preponderance of observational and controlled data we already have for general and mental health and decided to train people using dietary advice, nutritional counseling, and motivational interviewing directed at eating a “modified Mediterranean diet” that combined the Australian Dietary Guidelines and the Dietary Guidelines for Adults in Greece. They recommended eating whole grains, vegetables, fruit, legumes, unsweetened dairy, raw nuts, fish, chicken, eggs, red meat (up to three servings per week), and olive oil. Everyone in the study met criteria for a depressive disorder.

The experimental arm of subjects were instructed to reduce the intake of sweets, refined cereals, fried food, fast food, processed meat, sugary drinks, and any alcohol beyond 1-2 glasses of wine with meals. There were seven hour long nutritional counseling sessions and a sample “food hamper” with some food and recipes. The control group had the same number of sessions in “social support,” which is a type of supportive therapy that is meant to mimic the time and interpersonal engagement of the experimental group without utilizing psychotherapeutic techniques.

*  *  *

Despite the small size, the results were still statistically significant and better than anticipated. The dietary group had bigger reductions in depression scores at the end of 12 weeks. Remission of depression symptoms occurred in 32.3 percent of the diet group as opposed to 8 percent of the control group.

Source: A Dietary Treatment for Depression | Psychology Today

The Mediterranean diet…Is there anything it can’t do?

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Low-Carb Mediterranean Diet Beats Low-Fat Diet for Newly Diagnosed Type 2 Diabetes

Conquer Diabetes and Prediabetes, Steve Parker MD

Olive oil and vinegar: prominent features of the Mediterranean diet

I first wrote about this study way back in 2009. To recap how the study was done:

Newly diagnosed type 2 diabetics who had never been treated with diabetes drugs were recruited into the study, which was done in Naples, Italy.  At the outset, the 215 study participants were 30 to 75 years of age, had body mass index over 25 (average 29.5), had average hemoglobin A1c levels of 7.73, and average glucose levels of 170 mg/dl.

Participants were randomly assigned to one of two diets:

  1. Low-carb Mediterranean diet:  rich in vegetables and whole grains, low in red meat (replaced with poultry and fish), no more than 50% of calories from complex carbohydrates, no less than 30% of calories from fat (main source of added fat was 30 to 50 g of olive oil daily).  [No mention of fruits or wine.  BTW, the traditional Mediterranean diet derives 50-60% of energy from carbohydrates.]
  2. Low-fat diet based on American Heart Association guidelines:  rich in whole grains, restricted additional fats/sweets/high-fat snacks, no more than 30% of calories from fat, no more than 10% of calories from saturated fats.

Both diet groups were instructed to limit daily energy intake to 1500 (women) or 1800 (men) calories.

All participants were advised to increase physical activity, mainly walking for at least 30 minutes a day.

Drug therapy was initiated when hemoglobin A1c levels persisted above 7% despite diet and exercise.

The study lasted four years.

The bottom line for the investigators then was  that “a low-carbohydrate, Mediterranean-style diet seems to be preferable to a low-fat diet for glycemic control in patients with newly diagnosed type 2 diabetes.”

Nevertheless, in 2018 the most commonly recommended diet for diabetics is still a low-fat diet.

What About Long-Term Effects?

In 2014, our indefatigable researchers published additional long-term results of this study’s participants, who were followed for a total of 8 years. That’s an incredibly long time for a diet study. Major findings;

  • Compared to a traditional low-fat diet, the low-carb Mediterranean diet postponed the start of diabetes medications by two years , and it wasn’t simply due to weight loss.
  • Complete or partial remission of diabetes occurred in 15% of the low-carb Mediterranean dieters within the first year and 5% after six years. These rates were two to four times higher than seen in the low-fat group. (Lower hemoglobin A1c at the start of the study was a predictor of long-term remission. That is, your best chance of remission is when your diabetes is relatively mild when diagnosed.)
  • Compared to the low-fat diet group, the low-carb Mediterranean dieters saw a greater reduction in Hemoglobin A1c levels.

I don’t know exactly what these successful low-carb Mediterranean dieters ate, but if you need a low-carb Mediterranean diet now, why not try mine?

Steve Parker, M.D.

Low-Carb Mediterranean Diet, front cover

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Mediterranean Diet Could Prevent 20,000 Deaths Per Year in Britain

 

Italian seaside tangentially related to this post

Italian seaside tangentially related to this post

The Telegraph has the details:

“Some 20,000 lives could be saved each year if Britons switched to a Mediterranean diet, according to a new study.

The Medical Research Council (MRC) and Cambridge University followed nearly 24,000 people in the UK for up to 17 years to see how their diet affected the health of their heart.

They discovered that people who followed a diet high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, fish and olive oil lowered their risk of cardiovascular disease by up to 16 per cent. The researchers estimate that 12.5 per cent of cardiovascular deaths, such as heart attacks and strokes,  could be prevented if everyone switched to the Mediterranean diet. There are around 160,000 heart deaths each year so 20,000 deaths could be avoided just by eating more healthy foods.”

Source: Mediterranean diet could prevent 20,000 deaths in Britain each year 

I’ve been a proponent of the Mediterranean diet for over a decade. I’m not alone.

Steve Parker, M.D.

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