It’s What’s in the Diet

20 10 2010

Too often we look for a one shot quick-fix miracle cure. A super pill or super food as a panacea to, in one fell swoop, cleanse us of all our culinary sins and dietary indiscretions. Well, this ain’t that-but it is close. A recent study looked at the Mediterranean diet in non diabetics at high cardiovascular risk[i]. The Mediterranean diet, as described in this study utilizes

  • Olive oil for cooking and dressing.
  • Increased consumption of fruit, vegetables, legumes, and fish.
  • Reduction in total meat consumption, recommending white meat instead of red or processed meat.
  • Preparation of homemade sauce with tomato, garlic, onion, and spices with olive oil to dress vegetables, pasta, rice, and other dishes.
  • Avoidance of butter, cream, fast-food, sweets, pastries, and sugar-sweetened beverages.
  • In alcohol drinkers, moderate consumption of red wine.

There are a couple of important points to highlight here. There is liberal use of olive oil, which is a natural fat. The fruit, vegetables, legumes and fish are of the very fresh and minimally processed variety. The meat, likewise, should be minimally processed. The sauces to dress the dishes are of the homemade variety. Avoid prepared fast foods, products using highly refined components like flour and white sugar. I think you get the theme; fresh and minimally processed or adulterated food is the key component in the diet.

When this high risk population consumed this diet for four years versus a low fat diet, the incidence of new-onset diabetes was reduced by about 50%. As Dr. Jordi Salas-Salvadó (a principal investigator) noted, “the diabetes risk reduction occurred in the absence of significant changes in body weight or physical activity, so the reduction can be attributed only to the diet, not to weight loss.” Stephanie A Dunbar of the American Diabetes Association commented that  “(p)reviously, a randomized controlled trial, the Diabetes Prevention Program, showed that it was more the weight loss that helped to prevent diabetes, but in this study they are showing that by changing the foods you eat, you can reduce your risk without weight loss.”

Interestingly, the study, PREDIMED (Prevención con Dieta Mediterránea) randomized folks to a Mediterranean diet with extra virgin olive oil, a Mediterranean diet with nuts or a low fat diet, as the control group. Diets were without limits, and no advice on physical activity was given. The main outcome was diabetes incidence as diagnosed by the 2009 ADA criteria. The study is still ongoing, but the preliminary data from a Spanish site shows that after a median follow-up of four years, diabetes incidence was 10.1%, 11.0%, and 17.9% in the Mediterranean-diet-with-olive-oil group, the Mediterranean-diet-with-nuts group, and the control group, respectively. This equates to a 52% reduction in diabetes, due to the diet (not weight loss or physical activity).

Fresh and unadulterated, it may not be easy but  it’s pretty damn simple.

[i] (Salas-Salvado, Bullo, & Babio, 2010)




One response

20 10 2010

🙂 I am trying to set an example Doc…lots of lemon on things, and plenty of garlic…

Chef E

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