The Missing Pieces of the Healthy Mediterranean Diet

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This week, two reports in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) showed the beneficial effects of the Mediterranean diet for the elderly, and for patients with Metabolic Syndrome. Dr. Will Clower, author of a dietary cultural comparison between France and the U.S., argues that two critical elements have been left out of the equation.

This week, two reports in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) showed the beneficial effects of the Mediterranean diet for the elderly, and for patients with Metabolic Syndrome. Dr. Will Clower, author of a dietary cultural comparison between France and the U.S., argues that two critical elements have been left out of the equation.

The JAMA reports included factors such as moderate alcohol consumption, low red meat intake, daily activity, and lack of smoking. However, states Clower, “their cultural eating habits are critical and were completely absent from either report.”

Clower stresses that the success of the Mediterranean diet involves not just what they eat but how they eat, a factor often overlooked by US nutritionists. Two key habits include a slower eating pace at the table, and no between meal snacking.

"For physiological reasons," he points out, "their relaxed eating pace discourages the overconsumption that typifies the American dining experience. This routine leaves them satisfied by the rich foods of the meal, with no need to snack during the day."

When asked to summarize the elements of the Mediterranean Diet, Clower lists a combination of factors: "what to eat," "how to eat it" and "how to live."

WHAT to eat

•    Consume a balance of all foods, including healthy fats

•    Exclude all non-natural products

•    Focus on fish, chicken, and vegetables cooked with olive oil

HOW to eat

•    Take your time with the meal (return to the family table)

•    Eat smaller portions with smaller bite sizes

•    Avoid hurried eating and between meal snacking

LIFESTYLE variables

•    Daily stress relief

•    Daily activity

•    Community support

Clower is confident that even hectic Americans can adapt these healthy habits. Participants in his recent pilot study adapting the Mediterranean diet showed increased fruit and vegetable consumption, decreased snacking, decreased calorie intake, and steady weight loss (even with the addition of chocolate, fresh bread, and cheese).

For additional information or to request these preliminary data, contact Dr. Will Clower: PO Box 408, North Versailles, PA 15137; 412-243-5073.

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