Cracking the health secrets of the Mediterranean Diet – by guest experts Prof Salas Salvado & Dr RosNutrition News — By Emma Stirling on September 4, 2012 at 11:21 pm
So I’ve arrived in sensational Sydney for the International Congress of Dietetics and am very excited to share with you this news hot off the press on the magic of the Mediterranean Diet. All week 2000 dietitians from around the globe will be meeting and tweeting the latest hot nutrition news. Follow along with #ICD2012. Will have more for you later in the week too:
We are lucky to have visiting Australia for the first time two eminent experts from the landmark PREDIMED Study. Prof Jordi Salas-Salvadó (left) is a Professor of Nutrition and Food Science in the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences of Reus, Rovira i Virgili University (Spain) and prinicpal invesitgator on the PREDIMED study. Dr Emilio Ros (right) is a Senior Consultant and the Director of the Lipid Clinic, Endocrinology and Nutrition Service, Hospital Clínic, University of Barcelona (Spain).
What is PREDIMED and why the hype?
The PREDIMED study is the most comprehensive review of the Mediterranean diet that has been undertaken in the world. The clinical trial began in 2003 and is now in its ninth and final year. The Spanish study has involved nearly 7400 participants aged 55-80 at high risk of cardiovascular disease, but with no symptoms. The participants were randomly asked to follow one of three diets: a Mediterranean Diet enriched with a handful (30g) of mixed nuts a day; a Mediterranean diet enriched with a litre of extra-virgin olive oil a week; or a low-fat diet. The aim was to determine the benefits of the enriched Mediterranean diets on cardiovascular disease and its risk factors, compared to a low-fat diet.
The Mediterranean diet is the traditional diet found in olive-growing areas of Spain, Crete, Greece, Southern France and Southern Italy in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Its major characteristics are lots of fruit and vegetables, grains, legumes and nuts; plenty of fish and seafood; olive oil for cooking and dressings; small amounts of meat and dairy; and moderate alcohol intake, mainly red wine with meals.
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So far, what are the key findings from the PREDIMED study according to Prof Jordi Salas Salvado?
Our nine years of research have overwhelmingly demonstrated healthy diets rich in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids provide long-term protection from health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and obesity.
In particular, the PREDIMED study has shown a Mediterranean diet enriched with a 30g handful of mixed nuts a day can:
- reduce the risk of diabetes by 52 per cent1;
- reduce the risk of Metabolic Syndrome by 13.7 per cent (also known as Syndrome X);2
- reduce blood glucose levels, systolic and diastolic blood pressure and the LDL:HDL cholesterol ratio3;
- improve biomarkers of inflammation on the cardiovascular system4,5;
- reduce obesity measures, such as BMI and waist circumference6, and
- improve brain health through better cognitive performance7,8.
Since 2003, we’ve had more than 50 PREDIMED papers published in peer-reviewed journals on the wide-ranging health benefits of the Mediterranean diet. Importantly, it’s not the latest fad diet, it is traditional plant-based eating that is steeped in history and now, as a result of the PREDIMED study, backed by science.
We’ll have a summary of PREDIMED abstracts here from Wednesday 5th September.
In Australia and around the world a key hurdle to encouraging people to eat foods rich in good fats, like nuts, is fear of weight gain. Here’s what Prof Jordi Salas Salvado has to say…
It’s time for people to forget the low-fat hype and embrace good fats. We know there is a fear of weight gain surrounding foods high in good fats, like nuts, but this is absolutely unfounded. There are approximately 30 clinical trials that have demonstrated the beneficial effect of consuming nuts on diabetes, cholesterol etc, and none of these have observed any negative effect on weight.
Dr Emilio Ros is a staunch supporter of nuts in fact he says there’s more science supporting the protective qualities of nuts than any other whole food…
There are the five large observational studies consistently showing heart disease protection with increasing nut intake, and there have been 30 or more short-to-medium term clinical trials consistently showing that nut diets, of any nut type, lower blood cholesterol.
We recommend 30g of nuts a day, which is around a handful, as this is the amount of nuts that we have consistently demonstrated beneficially effects heart disease risk factors. Increasing nut consumption is very important. I think Australians should strive to eat a handful of nuts a day, not only for protection from heart disease but diabetes, hypertension, and other general health problems.
Are Australians going nutty?
According to, Nuts for Life an organisation that provides nutrition information for the Australian tree nut industry, nut consumption among Australians is low. A survey of Australians found just two per cent of the population eat the recommended handful of nuts a day.10 The majority of Australians (58%) eat nuts monthly or less frequently.9
Adding more nuts to your diet is as easy as tossing some cashews into your stir-fry or snacking on trail mix to beat the afternoon munchies. For more information on nuts and health, as well as recipes and tips for adding nuts to your diet, check out the Nuts for Life website www.nutsforlife.com.au We love their free cookbook you can download – just perfect for your ipad when in the kitchen. Do you love nuts?
- Salas-Salvadó J, et al. Reduction in the incidence of type 2 diabetes with the Mediterranean diet:results of the PREDIMED-REus nutrition intervention randomised trial. Diabetes Care. 2011;34(1):14-9.
- Salas-Salvadó J, et al. Effect of a Mediterranean diet supplemented with nuts on metabolic syndrome status: one-year results of the PREDMED randomised trial. Arch Intern Med. 2008;168(22):2449-58.
- Estruch R, et al. Effects of a Mediterranean-style diet on cardiovascular risk factors: a randomised trial. Ann Intern Med. 2006;145(1):1-11.
- Urpi-Sarda M, et al. Virgin olive oil and nuts as key foods of the Mediterranean diet effects on inflammatory biomarkers related to atherosclerosis. Pharmocol Res. 2012;65(6):577-83.
- Estruch, R. Anti-inflammatory effects of the Mediterranean diet: the experience of the PREDIMED study. Proc Nutr Soc. 2010;69(3):333-40.
- Casas-Agustench P, et al. Cross-sectional association of nut intake with adiposity in a Mediterranean population. Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis. 2011;21(7):518-25.
- Valls-Pedret C, et al. Polyphenol-rich foods in the Mediterranean diet are associated with better cognitive function in lederly subjects at high cardiovascular risk. J Alzheimers Dis. 2012;29(4):773-82.
- Sánchez-Villegas A, et al. The effect of the Mediterranean diet on plasma brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) levels: the PREDIMED-NAVARRA randomised trial. Nutr Neurosci. 2011;14(5):195-201.
- Consumer Insights. Nuts for Life Biannual market research January 2012, Nuts for Life 2012.