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Is Nutrition Really the Key to Good Health?

The Mediterranean Diet put to the test.

by
Theodore Dalrymple

Bio

April 13, 2013 - 7:00 am
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Having recently returned from Madrid, I confess that I saw little evidence of the Mediterranean diet being consumed there (apart, that is, from the red wine): though, of course, Madrid is in the middle of the peninsula, far from the Mediterranean. Perhaps things are different on the coast. Nevertheless, at over 80 years, Spain has one of the highest life expectancies in the world.

Is this because of the much-vaunted Mediterranean diet? Spanish research recently reported in the New England Journal of Medicine provides some – but not very much – support for the healthiness of that diet.

The researchers divided 7000 people aged between 55 and 80 at risk of heart attack or stroke because they smoked or had type 2 diabetes into three dietary groups. One group (the control) was given dietary advice concerning what they should eat; the two other two groups were cajoled by intensive training sessions into eating a Mediterranean diet, supplemented respectively by extra olive oil or nuts, supplied to them free of charge.

They were then followed up for nearly five years, to find which group suffered from the most (or the least) heart attacks and strokes. The authors, of whom  there were 18, concluded:

Among persons at high cardiovascular risk, a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil or nuts reduced the incidence of major cardiovascular events.

The authors found that the diets reduced the risk of the subjects suffering a heart attack or stroke by about 30 percent. Put another way, 3 cardiovascular events were prevented by the diet per thousand patient years. You could put it yet another way, though the authors chose not to do so: 100 people would have to have stuck to the diet for 10 years for three of them to avoid a stroke or a heart attack. This result was statistically significant, which is to say that it was unlikely to have come about by chance alone, but was it significant in any other way?

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All Comments   (27)
All Comments   (27)
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Who wants to stick around here any longer than they have to anyway?
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
Teddy, the answer is YES diet does matter. Same as in computers, garbage in = garbage out. Eat the Paleo diet way and enjoy what you eat and be healthier for it.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
Okinawans have the longest life expectancy of any society on earth.
There are comparisons of the Asian/Mediterranean diets for ready review.
But, what are you worried about?
Obamacare will fix all our problems and Michelle will conjure up diets much more healthy than anyone ever imagined. And for ready reference to that, just examine our current middle school kids. (snort!)
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
Seriously, do you think we'll ever definitively know this??
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
in my world the three Abraham faiths are already in unity yet keep their own flavor. (translating this to your world takes creativity)13 heavens keep me a busy beaver . This must be why I am 61 years old with 20 year old flesh body. Yet I know this is not your world.
what to do?
This article today from nytimes perhaps you find this interesting.The benefits of faith in a community of protestant believers by t M luhrmann
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/21/opinion/sunday/luhrmann-why-going-to-church-is-good-for-you.html?hp
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
footnote
this from the nytimes! Wow! what is happening at that atheist leftist "commie" newspaper! WOW
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
My husband and I are in our 60s, smoke and have yet to develop any health problems or have any reason to see a doctor. We hardly ever eat restaurant food, fast food and avoid processed food. We make most of our food from scratch and I suppose we do eat a Mediterranean diet in that we do a lot of Italian cooking with tomato sauce, olive oil and our snack of choice is olives. I've always believed in the old-fashioned advice "all things in moderation" and it seems to be working for us. We eat sensibly, thoroughly enjoy our food but we don't over-indulge in anything. Except red wine sometimes.
52 weeks ago
52 weeks ago Link To Comment
Eat Right, Exercise and...

DIE ANYWAY!

Just eat what you enjoy you are dead anyway in the long run.
52 weeks ago
52 weeks ago Link To Comment
Maybe someday humans will learn to eat in much the same manner as we professionally feed our livestocks. The foundation to minimum nutrional requirements (essentials) is established by the National Research Council of the National Academy of Science. Building upon that research is then ongoing for specific breed and genetics fine tunning to optimum performance. All around, we experience uniform performance and outcomes essentially not experienced several decades ago. We know precisely what the nutrients and levels are in every fedstuffs wet or DM and feed our diets according to the nutrient values in various measurements of wet or DM weight. (the simplistic explanation of course).

And yes, the full biomedical realm of research for livestock nutrition most often parallels the human relam of nutrition research but with quite different approaches to the applied side.

As a side note, I also come from families that have genetic dispostions of long lives regardless of how abused. High 90s going back to my great-great grand parents and I'm just a month away from 80 and in excellent biological health though the normal skeltal (back) issues from years of abuse.
52 weeks ago
52 weeks ago Link To Comment
Nonsense!!
Live stock diets are formulated for the optimum weight gain vs lean meat from the animal.
It would be the equivalent to humans living off of protein shakes, hormones, steroids, and a 5000 calorie a day diet.
Livestock is slaughtered before it has a chance to get sick from the diet. I would like to see cows pigs and sheep kept alive 10 years on those diets. Do it to say 1,000 animals for the research value.
52 weeks ago
52 weeks ago Link To Comment
Zeke's got the flatulence and manure market cornered. Stay away, and don't soil yourself.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
I used to take care of a 95 year old gentleman who suffered from mild asthma. He was a non-smoker and possessed a keen mind and lively sense of humor. I asked him one day what was the secret of his good health and longevity; he replied "Buttermilk."

52 weeks ago
52 weeks ago Link To Comment
I grew up eating a lot of traditional Mediterranean food (my mom is Italian), plus some French and Spanish. I can tell you from first-hand experience that the "Mediterranean Diet" is not what people think it is. Get any mass-market cookbook by Marcella Hazan, Julia Child, etc. and you'll see that Mediterranean food is chock full of white carbs, saturated fat, and cholesterol, more so than much American food. The difference is that people who live in the Mediterranean don't stuff their faces like starving pigs.
52 weeks ago
52 weeks ago Link To Comment
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