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Why You Should Also Eat Mediterranean

Not Just a Nice Place to Visit

Olives are part of the Mediterranean diet You are what you eat. It’s a statement that’s become so commonplace, so hackneyed, it’s a cliché; the words just don’t really mean much anymore.  But a study recently released gives life to this age old phrase—literally.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 57 percent of Americans are overweight.  That’s the equivalent of approximately 39 million people or one in every sixth person.  It comes as no surprise, then, that the United States has the rather infamous distinction as the Western world’s leader in obesity, this according to data gathered by the US Census Bureau in 2004 (Mexico is the runner-up).

Of course, the ubiquity of obesity is due to a number of factors, not the least of which is a general lack of exercise.  But the leading reason, of course, is poor eating habits.  What makes this fact distressing, particularly for those of us who make healthy living a priority, is that poor food choices have become designated “Western”—i.e. the Western world, i.e. where we live!  Meanwhile, a diet that’s designated “Mediterranean,” is a diet that’s known for its healthful qualities.  And the numbers indicate as much, for the same numbers gathered by the US Census Bureau regarding the rate of obesity among countries places Mediterranean countries low on the obesity scale (pardon the pun).

A Mediterranean diet is one rife with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and beans—all foods that are low in saturated fat and high in monounsaturated fats.  By contrast, the Western diet is one rife with processed foods, foods made with refined flour and hydrogenated oils, “fast” foods—in short, all foods high in saturated fat and low in nutrient value.       

Now, most of us don’t eat an exclusively Western diet, nor do most of us eat an exclusively Mediterranean diet.  But it might be in our interest to develop a Mediterranean eating habit—especially for those of us who have a family history of Alzheimer’s disease.  According to research conducted out of Columbia University, people afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease have a significantly diminished chance of dying as a result of the disease, depending on how closely they followed a Mediterranean diet.

Researchers found that of the 192 New Yorker’s with Alzheimer’s disease studied over a four and a half year period, those that adhered to a Mediterranean diet closest lived four years longer than those who significantly deviated from it.  Of those who followed a Mediterranean diet moderately, their life expectancy was about a year and a half longer.  The findings are published in the journal American Academy of Neurology.

The significance of this finding with respect to Alzheimer’s disease is so impressive that the researchers hope to discover whether or not the Mediterranean diet can slow the disease’s progression in future studies.

The prevalence of Alzheimer’s is fast becoming a problem that’s on par with obesity, as  approximately one in seven elderly Americans are afflicted with some form of dementia, according to the National Institutes of Health.  For the sake of the minds and lives of those with the most wisdom—our elders—let us share these important findings with them.

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