The myth of the “healing diet” was refuted: what diseases does it protect against, and what does it not

The Mediterranean "healing" diet has long been considered the pinnacle of healthy eating: among residents

Mediterranean sea level of cardiovasculardiseases, diabetes, and cancer are lower than those of US residents. Residents of the region also have a higher life expectancy: in Spain it is one of the highest in the world - 83.2 years compared to 78.5 years in the States. This is thought to be due to the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties of a diet high in starchy, fibrous foods, vegetables, and fish.

What is the Mediterranean Diet?

Key Features of the Mediterranean Dietare low in saturated fat, sugar, and highly processed foods. This is in line with the USDA healthy living guidelines.

There is evidence that the Mediterranean dietalso contributes to effective weight loss. Fresh, fibrous foods and diets high in lean protein tend to be quite filling, which can help a person avoid overeating and maintain a healthy weight.

How does the Mediterranean diet affect cancer?

Studies have shown that foods rich inThe anti-inflammatory and antioxidant (carotenoids and lycopene) foods of the Mediterranean diet may reduce the risk of some cancers. In particular, doctors recommend using extra virgin olive oil.

Less consumption of meat and dairy products,associated with the Mediterranean diet, may be helpful in preventing a number of cancers. Animal products, often rich in saturated fats and cooked at high temperatures, increase the risk of colorectal cancer, stomach cancer, and prostate cancer in particular.

Cardiovascular health

According to a 2015 study, highconsumption of vegetables, fruits, nuts and legumes also has a positive effect on reducing cardiometabolic risk. Also, the combination of these factors can improve the health of those who already have heart problems.

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The impact of the Mediterranean diet on otherscardiovascular factors such as hip-to-waist ratio, lipids, and inflammatory markers are overwhelmingly positive, making it a wise choice for those at risk for or suffering from cardiovascular disease.

Maintaining a healthy weight

Although the Mediterranean diet has shownreal results in both cancer prevention and cardiovascular disease, both of which are often affected by a person's overall weight. One study found that in adults aged 55-75, the diet was particularly effective in reducing abdominal fat in younger participants with a higher BMI.

Satiety is an important factor for healthy weight loss,and having high-fiber foods such as cruciferous vegetables, legumes and whole grains in the Mediterranean diet will help a person feel fuller for a longer period of time. Hunger control is an effective way to reduce overeating, promoting effective weight loss or maintaining a healthy weight.

Mediterranean diet and aging

Previous research on the potential cognitive benefits of the Mediterranean diet has shown mixed results.

According to the US National Center on Aging,By protecting against cardiovascular disease, the Mediterranean diet may indirectly reduce the risk of dementia. This is because plaque buildup in the arteries (atherosclerosis), strokes, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and diabetes increase the risk of dementia. A healthy diet reduces the likelihood of these conditions occurring. But everything turned out to be not so simple.

Why were scientists wrong?

Swedish researchers do not completely refute this idea. It's just that scientists have found that diet alone does not have a significant effect on the course of cognitive function later in life.

Rather, it can be seen as one factor; inTogether with others, it can affect the development of dementia. This includes regular exercise, not smoking, drinking only in moderation, and keeping your blood pressure under control.

In particular, the data indicate thatregular physical activity and constant monitoring of blood pressure protect against cognitive decline. It is likely that these factors are even more influential in improving cognitive function than diet.

How did the study go?

As part of a new experiment, experts studieddata about 28,000 people. In the 1990s, they took part in a study by Swedish scientists who wanted to find out the relationship between diet and cancer. At that time, all subjects were on average 58 years old and regularly provided data on their diet in the form of a weekly food diary, a detailed questionnaire on the frequency and amount of consumption of various foods, and were interviewed about eating habits. Based on this information, the research team "scored" each participant on how strictly they adhered to standard Swedish dietary guidelines or a specific version of the Mediterranean diet.

Over the next 20 years, 1943 people, or6.9% of participants were diagnosed with some form of dementia. We are talking about two types of cognitive impairment - dementia associated with Alzheimer's disease, and vascular dementia, which occurs due to poor blood flow to the brain.

It turned out that the participants who followedtraditional Swedish or Mediterranean diets did not have a lower incidence of dementia of either type than participants who did not follow both dietary plans. The experts also found no association between diet and a specific marker of Alzheimer's disease, which they tested in about 740 participants with cognitive decline.

What's the bottom line?

Overall, the study refutes the specific impact of diet on cognitive function. But, like similar work that has been done in the past, it has its limitations.

One of the problems for such a longresearch is that dietary habits cannot be tracked over the entire period to assess potential changes. Thus, the results are challenged by potential confounders such as changing dietary habits, lifestyle changes, or new comorbidities over time. It is also undeniable that the participants in the study may have been cunning when they kept a food diary.

However, given the importance of proper nutrition on other health factors, it is important to follow a healthy diet. And yet it cannot be considered a panacea.

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