A new study, led by Dr Nita Forouhi of University of Cambridge, UK, has reaffirmed the benefits of Mediterranean diet. If you want to live longer while avoiding cardiovascular diseases and stroke, you should start Mediterranean diet and stick to it.
Considered the simplest and the healthiest diet in the world, the Mediterranean diet consists of daily intake of vegetables, fruits, unprocessed cereals and olive oil, biweekly intake of fish and seafood, weekly intake of dairy and poultry, and infrequent intake of fried food and red meat. Of all the ingredients, olive oil is the chief constituent of a Mediterranean diet. Mediterranean diet also stresses on increased intake of water restricted use of alcohol.
If you do all this, you will lower your risk of developing cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) by 6-16%, claims the study that was published today in the journal BMC Medicine.
The study was led by Dr Nita Forouhi from the Medical Research Council Epidemiology Unit at the University of Cambridge. The researchers collected data through a 130-item semi-quantitative food frequency questionnaires (FFQ) from 23,902 healthy Britons, aged 40 to 79 years old, and taking part in the EPIC-Norfolk prospective cohort study.
The participants adhered to a Mediterranean diet for 12-17 years while they were under observation to see the link between Mediterranean diet and the onset of CVDs and mortality.
The researchers found that if Brits started eating Mediterranean diet, one in every 25 new diagnoses of cardiovascular diseases, and one in every eight cardiovascular deaths can be prevented.
Dr Forouhi says about her study, “The benefits of the Mediterranean diet for cardiovascular health are well documented in countries of the Mediterranean region, but this is the first study to evaluate this in the UK.
If our findings are broadly representative of the overall UK population, then we can assume that higher level of adherence to the Mediterranean diet could have significant impact in lowering the cardiovascular disease burden in the UK.”
She adds, “Encouraging greater adoption of the Mediterranean diet looks like a promising component of a wider strategy to help prevent cardiovascular disease.”
The researchers defined a Mediterranean diet by calculating Mediterranean diet scores (MDS) using a 15-point score on recommendations by the Mediterranean Diet Foundation. The diet of the participants was adjusted to 2000 kcal/day and it was for the first time that these guidelines were being tested for their benefits on health.
The authors confess that their study is an observational one and the exact relationship between a Mediterranean diet and CVDs cannot be pinpointed. Still the authors point out that sticking to a Mediterranean diet is linked to lower CVDs in the UK but social, economic and cultural factors should be understood to alter the diet patterns for the people in UK.
UK – The Fat Man Of Europe
Dubbed the “Fat Man of Europe” – the UK has the highest number of obese people in Europe. The British Heart Foundation reports in its factsheet that nearly 7 million people are living with CVDs in UK, half of them are men, the remaining women.
CVDs account for more than 26% deaths in the UK every year – that’s nearly 160,000 deaths every year, 435 each day. Even babies are not free from the dangers of CVDs as nearly 12 babies are diagnosed each day with a heart defect.
The annual healthcare cost of CVDs is about 11 billion pounds and British scientists have pointed out that the dietary habits of people are to blame for this mammoth expense as only one in four adults and one in five children consume fruits and vegetables. To add fuel to the fire, nearly a quarter of people live sedentary lives.
Data published by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) states that purchase of white bread has dropped 75% and wholemeal bread has risen 85% since the 70s. Pizza and potato chips have become more popular.
Because of the lack of time and patience in people due to busier lifestyles, many of UK’s own classic foods are disappearing. A survey found that pies, patties and old-fashioned cakes are disappearing and are being replaced by fast food and easily made meals. Other foods headed for extinction are meat loafs and bread rolls.
Conversely, their lifestyles have changed to one that is sedentary, especially on the weekdays, while low income families have the lowest amount of physical activity which reaches up to 30-32%.
Why Is Mediterranean Diet Superior?
The UK National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommends a Mediterranean style diet for the people diagnosed with CVDs to prevent the disease from worsening.
The Mediterranean diet is considered one of the healthiest dietary plans because olive oil and unprocessed food are used as its basic ingredients. Compared to other cooking methods, cuisines and diets, Mediterranean diet clearly has an edge. It is neat, simple and healthy.
Lard and butter are used in Northern Italian cuisine while and animal fat and rendered butter are used in the Middle East and North African diet. Both diets are high in saturated fats.
Studies have found that eating nuts and olive oil, that the Mediterranean diet is popular for, does not lead to weight gain because of their positive effects on health. As olive oil contains monounsaturated fats and polyphenols, which lower LDL levels in the body when combined with vegetables, fish, whole grains and legumes. It makes Mediterranean diet really, really healthy. The diet is rich in healthy fats, high in nutritional value and does not increase body weight exponentially.
Mediterranean diet is only ideal for people with weak cardiovascular system. Experts also recommend it in patients suffering from other ailments such as cancer, allergy, obesity and diabetes.