You may have seen articles in the news this week that a major study supporting the Mediterranean Diet has been retracted. And you may have questions about what this means and whether or not you should consider following the Mediterranean Diet.
First of all, let's start with a little background.
Over 50 years ago, a research study by Ancel Keys, PhD, the Seven Countries Study, found that middle-aged men living in the Mediterranean region of the world, specifically the island of Crete, experienced lower cardiovascular disease rates than middle-aged men in other parts of the world. This outcomes was attributed to their diet - specifically a traditional diet comprised of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, and fish.
Subsequent studies found that people in the Mediterranean region following this diet experienced an array of health benefits, including increased lifespan, less obesity, lower cholesterol, lower rates of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes, improved brain function and lower rates of Alzheimer's disease.
In 2013, results from a landmark study called the PREDIMED trial were published in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine. This large multi-site trial was touted as a randomized study comparing the Mediterranean Diet against the low-fat diet promoted by the American Heart Association. The results were impressive: A Mediterranean diet that included nuts reduced the risk of cardiovascular disease by 30% and risk of stroke by 49% when compared to the American Heart Association low-fat diet.
This week, the researchers acknowledged that there were serious problems with their methodology in the PREDIMED study - specifically, not all of the supposedly randomized participants were, in fact, separated into groups randomly. The researchers re-analyzed their results, retracted the original study, and replaced the study with the new results - which came to the same conclusion as the original study.
In other words, even though the original study design was flawed, once the data were corrected to account for the flaws, the results were the same. The Mediterranean Diet does lower the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke. In addition to all the benefits noted in other studies of the diet.
So, if you follow, or are considering following, the Mediterranean Diet as your way of eating, should you throw it out? Absolutely not!
The Mediterranean Diet with its emphasis on plant-based, locally sourced, whole and natural foods remains a very healthy way of eating with many health benefits. When you are eating the Mediterranean way, your diet will focus on a variety of fruits and vegetables, legumes, lean protein, nuts, healthy fats, and whole grains, all in moderation, and washed down with a bit of red wine if you so choose. It is a diet that is loaded with the vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, and antioxidants your body needs, with little of the highly processed, low-nutrition foods so common in the standard American diet. And it is a way of eating that is reasonably easy to follow, filled as it is with a tasty variety of mostly easy to find foods. So eat up with a clear conscience - and don't forget the red wine!