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Mediterranean Diet Gains Ground

Mediterranean Diet Gains GroundRecentstudies are indicating that a Mediterranean-style diet –rich in olive oil, nuts and whole grains – may be good foryour heart. Tufts experts weigh in on the research. Boston,Mass.

Boston [12.10.04] Recent studies indicatingthat the so-called “Mediterranean diet” may reducethe risk of heart disease and lead to an overall longer lifespanhave been somewhat supported with the US Food and Drug Administration’s(FDA) announcement of a qualified health claim of the health valueof olive oil. Researchers from Tufts are careful to point out,however, that it’s not as simple as switching to olive oil.

“Themessage remains the same, and is consistent with other findings:a diet lower in saturated fats” and higher in unsaturatedfats, will result in better health outcomes, AliceLichtenstein, director of CardiovascularNutrition Laboratory at the JeanMayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tuftsand chair of the American Heart Association’s NutritionCommittee, told WebMD last year after a study publishedin the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) found thatthe Mediterranean diet lowers death and disease risks.

The 2003 NEJMstudy and additional research bolstered support for the diet,resulting in the FDA’s announcement in early November thatfood containing olive oil could carry a qualified health claimnoting consumers may be able to reduce their risk of heart disease“if they consume monounsaturated fat from olive oil andolive-oil containing foods in place of foods high in saturatedfat.”

The Mediterraneandiet – named for the region in which it is most prevalent– calls not only for the consumption of olive oil but alsofor meals rich in vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts, whole grainsand fish, as well as a moderate amount of wine. Meat and dairyproducts are de-emphasized.

Although thebenefits of the diet may appear obvious to some, experts notethat the challenge of prompting individuals to change their waysis significant, and physical activity is another crucial component.

“That’sprobably the $64,000 question in the nutrition community,”Lichtenstein recently told National Public Radio. “Howcan we really motivate people to adhere to a diet [lifestyle]like this that really has been shown to be associated with increasedlongevity and decreased risk of chronic disease?”

Lichtensteinnoted to the Los Angeles Times that diet combined withan exercise regimen “is essentially the recommendation thatthe American Heart Association has been making for 10 to 15 years.It’s the whole package, and we need to be thinking of itthat way.”

Part of theresistance to incorporating regular exercise into one’sroutine, like the many Europeans who adhere to this diet do, maycome from an inherent difference between the ways some citiesin the U.S. and Europe are set up.

In parts ofEurope, due to high gas prices and widespread public transit,“it’s more likely people are going to use bicycles.It’s more likely that people are going to walk,” Lichtensteinobserved on National Public Radio.









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