The Mediterranean Diet Myth – Vegetables, Fruit, Naturally Low Caloric Density, Hard Physical Work, Yes! Olive Oil, Nuts, Seeds, & Chocolate? I Don’t Think So!
I Thought Those High HDL’s Were My Ace in the Hole – Until I Read Dr. Lawrence Rudel’s Research
The Green African monkeys metabolize fat in the same way as humans, so they’re good stand-ins..
At the end of five years, their autopsies showed that the monkeys who were fed monounsaturated oil (olive) had higher HDLs (the good cholesterol) and lower LDLs (the bad cholesterol) than the ones fed the saturated fat diet. The big surprise here: Both groups had exactly the same amount of coronary artery disease. The higher HDLs & lower LDLs of the olive oil group were meaningless.
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One week until my Utah “Centenarian Strategies” presentation–and except for some minor tweaking, it’s finished!
After May 3rd I’ll be back to blogging! I’ve really missed it. Posting on Facebook is just not the same.
I wanted to share a few slides that help explain why in spite of eating what I thought was a healthy diet–and exercising regularly–my weight continued to climb as I got older.
Maybe you’ve noticed the same thing yourself–& wondered why.
My weight continued to climb.
My cholesterol continued to climb.
My blood pressure continued to climb.
The Myth of the Mediterranean Diet – It Can Get You Fat
After seeing the Greek islands for myself last May, I understood why the Mediterranean Diet got its reputation for being heart healthy. Steep hills, homegrown food, and isolation.
Imagine living on a craggy isolated Greek island, post-World War II. You had to walk up and down steep hills everyday to tend to your garden and your animals. There was no processed food coming onto the island.
You lived off of what you could grow yourself–tomatoes, greens, vegetables, fruits, and the wild purslane (high in omega-3s) growing on the hillside. Sure you had a little cheese, fish, wine & olive oil–and fava beans.
You were heart-healthy because you worked hard, ate lots of plants, a little fish, and a little wine. And that heart health came in spite of the olive oil–not because of it.
What’s the real story behind the virtues of the Mediterranean Diet?
The authentic post-World War II Mediterranean diet of Crete–lots of physical labor coupled with lots of fruits, vegetables, legumes, and just a little bit of olive oil, wine, & fish.
Br J Nutr. 2004–when researchers went back to Crete to look at the health of the islanders 50 years later–the group with the highest olive oil (MUFA) consumption had the highest heart disease, and those with the lowest olive oil intake had the the lowest heart disease. Click here and here for more about why olive oil & the monounsaturated fats aren’t exactly health food.
The data on which the Mediterranean Diet is based came from the 1950’s.
At that time the people on the Isle of Crete had the lowest all-cause mortality. It was post-WWII, they were poor, didn’t have a lot to eat, ate mostly fresh fruits & veggies from their gardens, walked 9 miles a day, worked at hard physical labor and the highest consumption of oil was 3 TBS a day–and small amounts of fish. Big difference from how we live today.
Drs. Lawrence Rudel, Dean Ornish & Robert Vogel on Olive Oil
- Vogel: Contrary to our hypothesis, our study found that omega-9 (oleic acid)–rich Olive Oil, impairs endothelial function after eating. If you’ve been using olive oil because you think it’s healthy, it’s time to think again. The olive oil constricted blood flow by a whopping 31% after a meal in a Vogel’s study. Dr. Robert Vogel
- Rudel: Rudel ran a five year study feeding olive oil and saturated fat to African Green monkeys. The monkeys metabolize fat in the same way as humans, so they’re good stand-ins.. At the end of five years, their autopsies showed that the monkeys who were fed olive oil had higher HDLs (the good cholesterol) and lower LDLs (the bad cholesterol) than the ones fed the saturated fat diet. The big surprise here: Both groups had exactly the same amount of coronary artery disease. The higher HDLs & lower LDLs of the olive oil group were meaningless. Rudel later repeated the study on rodents, and got the same results. Dr. Lawrence Rudel
- Ornish: It’s 100% fat and 14% of it is saturated. At 120 calories a tablespoon it’s very easy to eat too much of “a bad thing”. It won’t raise your LDL as much as butter or other saturated fats will, so it might look like it’s reducing your cholesterol, but it’s still raising it. It’s just not raising it as much other fats would! It’s the omega-3’s that reduce inflammation and are “heart healthy”, and olive oil has very little omega-3, maybe 1%. It’s mostly omega-9, which has been shown to impair blood vessel function.
The Myth of High HDL’s
There’s no doubt about it.
Eat a lot of nuts & olive oil, drink alcohol & you’ll raise your HDL’s. But, are all high HDL’s created equal?
Turns out, there’s good HDL & there’s bad HDL. Bet you didn’t know that!
It’s not about how high your HDL’s are. It’s about how effective they are–and that’s called “Efflux Capacity”.
The HDL Catch-22: HDL is altered in the presence of systemic inflammation and its ability to inhibit inflammation & transport LDL becomes compromised.
- Nuts are loaded with inflammatory omega-6s, that could impair HDL.
- Belly fat is an engine for inflammation, that could impair HDL.
- Olive oil is inflammatory, and may impair HDL.
- The typical Western DIet is inflammatory, and may impair HDL.
- A diet devoid of vegetables & fruit is inflammatory, and impair HDL.
- A diet where the omega-6s (found in oil, nuts, saturated fat, animal products, & processed foods) far exceeds the omega-3s (found in flax, chia, greens, vegetables, & fish) is inflammatory, and may impair HDL.
- Worry less about how high or low your HDL’s are–and worry more about what you’re eating that’s inflaming your blood vessels.
Read more about HDL’s & Efflux Capacity here. A must read!
Read more about Olive Oil here.
Check Out the Omega-6 to Omega-3 Content of Nuts & Seeds
Chart Created by Joanne L. Mumola Williams, PhD, Foods for a Long Life
The ideal omega-6 to omega-3 ratio should be between 1:1 to 4:1, to prevent inflammation–and it’s not so easy to do! The typical Western diet has a ratio of 17:1.
Oil, nuts, seeds, corn-fed animal products, trans-fats, & processed foods are the biggests sources of inflammatory omega-6’s.
The more omega-6’s you are eating, the harder it is for plant-based omega-3’s like greens/flax/chia to convert into the kind of omega-3’s you need to prevent inflammation!
But, if you cut out the oil & nuts–then the chia/flax/greens REALLY DO CONVERT into DHA and EPA–the kind of anti-inflammatory omega-3s we need for a healthy brain/arteries/body. I had mine tested. I know that plant-based no-added oil or nuts really works!
Why I Gained Weight & Inflammation on the Mediterranean Diet
Eating just a small 1/3 cup of almonds a day.
Eating just a few squares of super-dark 85% cacao chocolate a day.
Eating just 3 TBS. of olive oil a day. I used it to cook with, to roast vegetables, in my salad dressings, & as a “dip” for my bread.
I had no idea how much fat & calories were in these Mediterranean gems until I tracked them for this presentation slide.
846 extra calories a day from chocolate, nuts, & olive oil.
84% of those calories are from fat.
21% of those calories are from saturated fat.
I was consuming 84.3 grams of fat (21.1 grams as saturated fat) just from nuts, olive oil & chocolate – and that’s a conservative estimate.
The Veg-Heavy Green Smoothie Snack Compared to Handful of Almonds???? No Contest!!
Compare the Nutrients in the Green Smoothie to the Nuts?
For some perspective–those 5815 mgs of omega-6’s from almonds are practically a day’s worth–although it’s relative to how many omega-3’s you consume. If you’re also eating tahini, more nuts & seeds, oils, meat, & processed foods—you can only imagine what your omega-6 to omega-3 ratio looks like!
Anyone as surprised as I was from these statistics?
reprinted from: http://www.happyhealthylonglife.com/happy_healthy_long_life/2012/04/mediterranean-diet.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+typepad%2Fhappyhealthylonglife%2Fhappy_healthy_long_life+%28Happy+Healthy+Long+Life%29