Strict Mediterranean diet offers big health boost

By | September 12, 2008

Sticking strictly to a Mediterranean diet rich in fruits and vegetables offers substantial protection against cancer, heart disease and other major chronic illnesses, Italian researchers said on Friday. People who did this had a 9 percent drop in death from heart disease, a 13 percent reduction in incidence of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease and a 6 percent reduction in cancer compared to those who were not as diligent, their study found. “These results seem to be clinically relevant for public health, particularly for encouraging a Mediterranean-like dietary pattern for primary prevention of major chronic diseases,” wrote Francesco Sofi, a clinical nutrition researcher, and colleagues at the University of Florence. The traditional Mediterranean diet is full of vegetables, fish and healthy fats such as olive oil, and low in red meat, dairy products and alcohol. – reuters

The wine industry likes the Mediterranean diet to include wine. Is it really healthy? I just eat grapes.

Most red wine may not be as good for the heart as media reports have suggested and may even be harmful, according to a review presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions. John Folts, a professor of cardiovascular medicine and nutritional science and an expert on the cardiovascular benefits of grape flavonoids, presented the findings.

“For 20 years, scientific research describing the heart-healthy benefits of consuming red wine has found its way into the lay press. Many people think that drinking red wine will reduce their risk of heart attack and stroke,” Folts says. “And that may be true, but probably only if you drink the expensive stuff.” Folts’ comments are based on a review of his own and others’ research.

Red wine contains polyphenolic compounds called flavonoids, which have been shown in many studies to reduce a wide variety of cardiac risk factors and, in some population studies, to reduce the risk of actually having a heart attack, he says.

“But what is often overlooked,” Folts notes, “is that it also contains alcohol, which is a pro-inflammatory and pro-oxidant substance, and which may increase risk factors for heart disease. The ratio of the amount of flavonoids to alcohol in red wine very likely determines if the wine is going to be heart-healthy, neutral or possibly harmful.”

Research suggests that if the red wine contains a large amount of flavonoids, they overcome the negative effects of alcohol and result in a net health benefit. However, many red wines do not contain enough flavonoids to overcome the negative effects. Thus, there may be little or no benefit to gain from consuming these red wines. – wisc

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