The Mediterranean diet has had many fans over the years, even in the scientific community. A new analysis of 50 studies involving half a million participants reinforces what many healthcare professionals already have said about the diet: It helps lower the risk of heart disease and diabetes.
The analysis published online Monday in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology examined how the diet affects metabolic syndrome, that is, disorders that increase the risk of heart disease. The analysis found that the diet played a "protective role" in lowering HDL cholesterol and triglycerides as well as blood pressure and glucose levels.
The diet isn't new; it's been around since the 1960s. That is, the name has been around that long. Obviously, this type of eating has been around for much longer. The Mediterranean wasn't settled yesterday, after all.
The diet involves eating more olives and olive oil, fruits, vegetables, whole grain cereals and low-fat dairy products as well as fish, poultry, tree nuts and legumes.
But it's also what's not in the diet that matters. Red meat is recommended just twice a month and only a "moderate" amount of alcohol is recommended at meals.
The American Heart Assn. answers some questions about the Mediterranean diet on its website. And it raises this point:
"Before advising people to follow a Mediterranean diet, we need more studies to find out whether the diet itself or other lifestyle factors account for the lower deaths from heart disease."
No matter how healthy olives and olive oil may be, if you eat too much you're not helping your heart. Really.