Clarifying the Mediterranean diet

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menuAlthough it s common knowledge that the Mediterranean diet is supposed to provide heart benefits, it hasn t been clear how much of its different constituents should be consumed. Now, some preliminary research has provided clues about how much of what product could be effective. The research was presented at the meeting of the European Association for Cardiovascular Prevention and Rehabilitation.

Researcher Dr. Francesco Sofi of the University of Florence and colleagues analyzed data from earlier research comprised of 41 prospective studies with nearly 3 million participants on the Mediterranean diet. They presented the averaged reported median intakes for several dietary components. Some of these averages included:

Dairy products: 165 grams (gm) for men and 200 gm for women

Fruit: 140 gm for men and 125 gm for women

Meat: 70 gm for both genders

Fish: 20 gm for men and 25 gm for women.

[Note: 1 ounce = about 28 grams].

Some weaknesses of this report, according to Dr. Sofi, were the wide range of average intakes, and lack of specific information on some important components such as wine, olive oil, and nuts.

In a related report at the same conference, Dr. Antonia Tricholpoulou and colleagues of the University of Athens, presented an analysis of Greek data from another European study, called EPIC. Using statistical techniques, these researchers calculated that 24 percent of the health advantage of the Mediterranean diet came from moderate alcohol consumption, 17 percent from low consumption of meat and meat products, 16 percent from high vegetable consumption, 11 percent from high fruit and nut consumption, 11 percent from a high ration of monounsaturated-to-saturated lipid consumption (mostly from olive oil consumption), and 10 percent from high legume consumption.

ACSH s Dr. Ruth Kava comments While these reports are certainly preliminary and shouldn t be taken as the final word on the Mediterranean diet, they can be helpful to individuals who are interested in trying this dietary approach to cardiovascular health promotion.