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The Mediterranean diet study

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  • The Mediterranean diet study

    I had a few people approach me yesterday and comment that The Mediterranean diet sounded pretty similar to eating Primal/Paleo but they pointed out that the entire base of the pyramid is grains. The MSM is touting the findings of the recent study all over which I guess is good because it does show that a high fat diet was more beneficial for heart health than a low fat diet. I found a past study that Robb Wolf blogged on where The Mediterranean diet was compared to a Paleo one and (obviously) Paleo was better...maybe the proper rebuttal is that The Mediterranean diet is better than a low fat diet (with grains) but not as good as being Primal/Paleo (grain free)?...any thoughts...
    Last edited by Rob from NJ; 02-26-2013, 07:19 AM.

  • #2
    The "Mediterranean Diet" is based on several premises.

    1. This is how people in that region normally eat.
    It's not. The "diet" the original data was based on involved poor people without access to a variety of foods. They lost weight, yes. But as soon as they got money, they started to buy meat and eat it.

    2. All people living in that area eat in the same way.
    They don't. There are regional cuisines with a huge variation in what they eat.

    This study, if it's the one I think you are talking about, compares diets and lifestyles that are different in every way, and then attempts to assign the difference in outcome to a single factor. The people in the "control" group were actually totally uncontrolled.

    The "Mediterranean Diet" is designed for upper middle class Americans. It has eliminated things they don't normally eat, and added stuff they wouldn't be without. People living on the Mediterranean really don't eat like that.


    • #3
      Good comment, Katherine, however, it has been probably more complicated with meat.
      I would add two other factors which are important but are usually ignored - climate and stress.
      Last edited by anna5; 02-26-2013, 08:32 AM.


      • #4
        They just mentioned this in a report on ABC news last night. The generalizations of the "diet" are absolutely ridiculous. I definitely agree with the foods mentioned as being healthy - plant-based oils, seafood, vegetables, etc. - but as a previous commenter mentioned, not everyone in the Mediterranean eat this way! There's plenty of lamb, chicken, and even beef being eaten (even though the "diet" apparently says no to red meat)!

        I did enjoy that they reported how there's no need to fear fat.
        >> Current Stats: 90% Primal / 143 lbs / ~25% BF
        >> Goal (by 1 Jan 2014): 90% Primal / 135-ish pounds / 20-22% BF

        >> Upcoming Fitness Feats: Tough Mudder, June 2013
        >> Check out my super-exciting journal by clicking these words.

        Weight does NOT equal health -- ditch the scale, don't be a slave to it!


        • #5
          I thought lamb is a staple in the actual Mediterranean diet?

          The whole so called "Mediterranean diet" simply doesn't make sense.


          • #6
            Originally posted by Graycat View Post
            I thought lamb is a staple in the actual Mediterranean diet?

            The whole so called "Mediterranean diet" simply doesn't make sense.
            It makes sense to the same people who think that "Asians are more healthy" because "they eat the Asian diet".


            • #7
              I saw a little blurb about it on the news last night and the announcer said fruits and vegetables, olive oil, seafood and something else but didn't even mention the grains and legumes most people insist on saying is the basis Mediterranean diet.

              There are a lot of different diets in the region, you know. Egyptian food is Mediterranean. So is Moroccan, Greek, Spanish. People over there eat lamb and pork, beef and mutton and all sorts of things, plus many of these cuisines are really quite oily and fatty.
              Female, 5'3", 50, Max squat: 202.5lbs. Max deadlift: 225 x 3.


              • #8
                I think The Mediterranean Diet, as opposed to what people in the Mediterranean region actually eat, is trying to not-so-subtly guide people towards reducing red meat and saturated fats, and to replace them with MUFAs and PUFAs via olive oil, nuts, and fish. As others have noted, this agenda-driven dietary guideline bears little resemblance to the diversity of eating in the area.

                Right off, the newest study from Spain is based on respondents reporting on what they've eaten over the past year, for several years, and this sort of study design has been shown to be wildly inaccurate. Secondly, adherence to a "low-fat" regiment was admittedly poor. And then of course, there were only "low fat," "low fat with olive oil added in," and "low fat with nuts added in." No studies contrasting how people in the area who included red meat, or a more broad-spectrum diet of foods would compare to the groups studied.

                And even if the study concluded that CVD was reduced, all-cause mortality was the same for all groups.


                • #9
                  There are thousands of different diets around the world based on what people have access to locally. As time passes, I'm realizing it's really silly to think that there is one 'right' way of eating.

                  Who is to say that people can't thrive on a 'Mediterranean Diet' especially if their commercial food supply isn't poisoned by HFCS, GMO, chemical preservatives, and deep-fried in trans fats? A typical low-carb meal at an American Diner (eggs from soy-fed hormone-pumped chickens fried in corn or soybean oil with a side of GMO-feedlot bacon) is probably way more detrimental than some locally grown legumes or pasta.


                  • #10
                    Not only what the people in southern europe eat but also how they are timing their eating can be relevant. In general they seem to eat very light throughout the day and a rather huge dinner at night together with their family and friends. Maybe that can explain something as well...
                    "All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident."

                    - Schopenhauer


                    • #11
                      Given our laws and our food sources, it is impossible to imitate in the U.S. what the Mediteraneans eat. Only the food names are the same. I spent several months in both coastal and central Turkey and loved their food, except their beef. They don't breed, use, or process meat as we do. For them meat comes from an old animal that has outlived his other usefulness, maybe an ox to old to pull a plow. All their meat is sliced thin and kabobbed and cooked over a fire until it is leather, with lots of spices. No wonder they don't eat much of it. But everything else is wonderful, it's the tastiest diet I've ever had, and it's a shame you can't buy it here.
                      However, the diet test that the FDA discussed was compared only to the SAD diet and no others.
                      "When the search for truth is confused with political advocacy, the pursuit of knowledge is reduced to the quest for power." - Alston Chase


                      • #12
                        It may contain grains and stuff but it's still a hell of a lot better than what most of the US is eating.
                        F 28/5'4/100 lbs

                        "I'm not a psychopath, I'm a high-functioning sociopath; do your research."


                        • #13
                          I read an interesting article about the island of Cypress, which has the longest lives of any group, anywhere. The article talked about things like hard work in their day to day lives, but also about low stress and lots of leisure time. It also said they drink a "tea" every day, made from things like marjoram, sage, and other herbs.

                          I don't think it's fair to pick out a few things and say "this is why," (such as olive oil or tomatoes) but leave out other basics (like the herb tea, which I doubt many Americans want to even try). This picking and choosing will necessarily wind up over-emphasizing things we like and removing things less palatable to us.


                          • #14
                            I've been to Croatia to visit family and was surprised how healthy their lifestyle of eating is. They farm their own vegetables and raise their own livestock. Even if their not growing the vegetables themselves you can guarantee the market is organic. They eat a lot of seafood! The olive oil is excellent and their is copious amount of red wine being drunk.

                            The one thing they would need to get rid of to be completely Paleo is just the bread, their bread is freshly baked though. They make great soups and goulash!

                            Goulash - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

                            I don't want to generalize but the diet definately seems to be the reason Europeans are intelligent and healthy
                            -safe is the new risky


                            • #15
                              The actual study--by a Spanish team of researchers-- is excellent and it bears little resemblance either to the media reports, or to what many of you are describing. Read the study; it's ungated at the New England Journal of Medicine: NEJM study

                              A few details to note:

                              A. This was not a retrospective recall study, as one poster above suggested. The researchers randomly assigned Spainards to one of three groups, and then used urinary biomarkers to assess compliance.

                              B. All three groups of people were told to avoid commercial baked goods, cookies, pastries, and processed foods; red meats; vegetables spreads, margarine, sodas, etc. So this study was explicitly NOT trying to say anything about red meat, processed foods, etc.

                              C. The study explicitly compared fat and grain: one group (the control) was told to eat as little fat as possible and lots of grains; another group was told to eat at least 4 tablespoons of unfiltered, extra virgin olive oil each day, plus as much fatty fish & sofrito (an olive oil/herb/garlic dish) as possible. The third group was told to eat 1/4 cup of walnuts/hazelnut/almonds each day, plus fatty fish and sofrito. The rest of their diet was meant to be fairly similar: no soda, no added sugar, no processed foods.

                              The researchers found that the groups who ate more fat and fewer grains were much healthier than the control group that ate little fat and more grains.

                              The study says nothing about saturated fat; it was explicitly designed to avoid the saturated fat argument by holding saturated fat levels constant. It's about fat and grains, and the message is: low fat, high grains diets are not nearly as good for you as high fat, lower grain diets.

                              So I read this study as excellent support for primal principles.
                              Last edited by tiva; 02-27-2013, 03:21 AM.