This article is from Forbes Magazine, and talks about the relationship between styles /content of eating and longevity. This is just a tiny excerpt from a long article because I loved the last line :-).
Results of two recently released studies, published in the journals Age and the British Journal of Nutrition (BJN), show that consuming cocoa flavanols improves cardiovascular function and lessens age-related stiffening of arteries and burdens on the heart in healthy adults. The studies were part of an EU-based project called FLAVIOLA.
Marc Merx, M.D., professor of Cardiology at the Klinikum Region Hanover and FLAVIOLA’s project coordinator, reports that the studies’ main finding was cocoa flavanols’ effect on vascular aging and blood pressure. “Blood pressure and increases in blood pressure are important factors associated with age-related morbidity and with mortality from cardiovascular disease,” he says. In fact, he was personally surprised that the findings showed flavanols to be capable of lowering blood pressure as effectively as exercise.
You can read the entire article for yourself, New Studies Confirm Role of Diet in Healthy Aging, here.
Happy – or happier – Saturday. Doesn’t everyone want to be happy? Happier? As it turns out, the science of being happy is studied, and there are ways proven to improve your feelings of happiness. I found this on a website called Motto, through AOL News:
10 Science-Proven Ways to Be Happier
Science continues to find ever more specific and idiosyncratic ways we can bring just a bit more of happiness into our lives
We never get tired of thinking about happiness, do we? Life is so much nicer when you’re able to couple it with joy and gratitude.
We’ve published posts before about simple ways to be happy and retraining your brain for more gratitude, and Buffer’s CEO Joel has even shared his own daily to-do list for happiness. (There’s also our popular list of things to stop doing to be happier.)
Meanwhile, science continues to study happiness, finding ever more specific and idiosyncratic ways we can bring just a bit more of this elusive quality into our lives.
I love keeping an eye on these studies, and thought I would share the latest batch with you here to see if any of them might resonate with you and make you just a bit happier.
Here are 10 truly unique ways to be happier that you can start today!
1. Do cultural activities
Need a boost of joy? Trying seeing a play or heading to a museum.
A study that collected data on the activities, mood and health of 50,000 adults in Norway found that people who participated in more cultural activities reported higher happiness levels and lower anxiety and depression.
“Participation in receptive and creative cultural activities was significantly associated with good health, good satisfaction with life, low anxiety and depression scores in both genders,” the researchers write.
Curiously, men saw stronger benefits from receptive, or passive, cultural activities (like visiting museums, art exhibitions, concerts or theaters) while women more enjoyed active participation events (like club meetings, singing, outdoor activities and dance).
2. Keep a diary: Rereading it brings joy
To learn to find more gratitude and joy in every day—not just special occasions, the boring days, too—try keeping a diary and re-reading it from time to time.
Researchers who did a variety of experiments involving keeping a journal discovered that “ordinary events came to be perceived as more extraordinary over time” as participants rediscovered them through their older writings.
In other words, simply writing down our ordinary, regular-day experiences is a way of banking up some happiness down the line, when the activities we describe could bring us unexpected joy.
3. Make small talk with a stranger
Chatting up your barista or cashier? Good for your health!
Behavioral scientists gave a group of Chicago train commuters a $5 Starbucks gift card in exchange for striking up a conversation with a stranger during their ride. (While another group kept to themselves.)
Those who started conversations reported a more positive experience than those who had stayed quiet—even though they had predicted they would feel happier being solitary.
Another study saw similar results from giving Starbucks visitors a $5 gift card in exchange for having a “genuine interaction with the cashier.”
It seems that connecting with another person—no matter how briefly—increases our happiness.
4. But have meaningful conversations, too
While positive small talk is great, more substantial conversations could up our happiness quotient even higher.
A study that tracked the conversations of 80 people for 4 days found that, in keeping with the small-talk study, higher well-being is associated with spending less time alone and more time talking to others.
But researchers also discovered that even higher well-being was associated with having less small talk and more substantive conversations.
“Together, the findings demonstrate that the happy life is social rather than solitary and conversationally deep rather than superficial,” the researchers write.
So dive deep in your conversations with friends and loved ones—it’s great for you.
5. Live in the suburbs and get involved
This one seems to apply to the U.S. A. only, but I still found it quite interesting.
I would have guessed that city dwellers might be the most satisfied with where they live, but in a poll of 1,600 U.S. adults, the highest rate of happiness was found in the suburbs.
84 percent of suburbanites rated the communities where they live as overall excellent or good, compared to 75 percent of urban dwellers and 78 percent of rural residents.
Another study on city happiness found that residents are happier if they feel connected to their cities and neighborhoods and feel positively about the state of city services.
So wherever you live, make sure to get involved in your community for maximum happiness.
6. Listen to sad songs: They provide emotional release
How could sad songs make us happy? And why do we seek them out?
That’s the question researchers wanted to answer with a survey of 722 people from around the world.
They discovered that there are 4 main reasons we take comfort in melancholy songs:
- They allow us to drift off into imagination
- They might provide us catharsis (emotion regulation)
- They allow us to relate to a common emotion (empathy), and
- They’re divorced from our actual problems (no “real-life” implications)
Researchers determined that “listening to sad music can lead to beneficial emotional effects such as regulation of negative emotion and mood as well as consolation.”
7. Spend money on experiences, not items
Here’s one that’s easy to understand but might be tougher to fix.
We know that spending money on life experiences will make us happier than spending money on material things (and it does!) but we can’t seem to stop ourselves from choosing the wrong option.
That’s what a study in The Journal of Positive Psychology found as they surveyed people before and after they made purchases.
The series of studies concluded that we’re more likely to spend on items than experiences because we can quantify them more easily and we want to see the best value for our dollars.
However, they found that the study subjects reported that after they spent, experiences brought them greater well-being and they considered them to be a better use of money.
So if we can keep that in mind, it’s possible to have our cake and eat it, too—definitely something to be happy about!
8. Set tiny, attainable goals: Make someone smile
It might be cliché, but making someone happy will make you happy, too.
And science says the more specific you can be with your goal, the better.
University of Houston professor Melanie Rudd found that a group of people who were told to make someone smile felt both happier and more confident that they’d actually achieved their goal than a similar group who’d been told simply to make someone else happy.
Even more interesting: In a separate experiment, people wrongly predicted that going for the bigger goal would make them happier.
“If you can meet or exceed your expectations of achieving a goal, you will be happier than if you fall short of your expectations,” Rudd explained.
9. Look at beautiful things: Design makes us happy
Could looking at a beautiful object make you feel happier?
The smartphone company HTC conducted a study that says yes.
In a series of laboratory and online experiments, volunteers looked at and interacted with objects that fell into 3 categories: beautiful, functional, or both beautiful and functional.
Their reactions uncovered some interesting findings, like:
- Well-designed objects that are both beautiful and functional trigger positive emotions like calmness and contentment, reducing negative feelings like anger and annoyance by almost a third.
- Purely beautiful objects (not functional) reduce negative emotions by 29%, increasing a sense of calmness and ease.
Objects that were both beautiful and functional created an especially high level of emotional arousal:
In general, people feel happier looking at and using beautiful objects that work well.
10. Eat more fruits and veggies
We know being healthier makes us happy, but can carrots give you purpose?
I have to admit I didn’t expect such a direct link between happiness and eating a lot of fruits and vegetables as researchers in New Zealand report.
Their 13-day study of 405 people who kept food diaries showed that people who ate more fruits and vegetables reported higher than average levels of curiosity, creativity, and positive emotions, as well as engagement, meaning, and purpose.
Even more interestingly, participants often scored higher on all of those scales on days when they ate more fruits and vegetables.
“These findings suggest that fruit and vegetable intake is related to other aspects of human flourishing, beyond just feeling happy,” writes the research team.
Who wants a perfect friend? I know I am flawed, would a perfect friend want to be friends with me? Ummm . . . probably not, and I would have a hard time living up to a perfect friend.
Having said that, my FitBit is my constant companion. She would like to be my nanny, but I don’t allow her to nag me, I just share time with her where we have things in common.
She can’t go in the water (so far as I know, and I have searched intensely to see if it were possible for her to go into water aerobics with me) so I don’t get any credit with her or on my daily stats for all the hard work I do in the pool.
She is so unobtrusive that sometimes I forget her. Not often; she is mostly part of my routine, but the other day, a very busy day, I realized as I was getting ready for bed that she was not with me. I always, routinely, put her on my nightgown. She wasn’t there. I had left her on a shirt as I changed clothes. I had lost stats for an entire five hour period, horrors!
She really encourages me to move more. Did you know sitting is the new smoking? Too much sitting correlates to dying earlier than you need to? So when I am watching a show and AdventureMan is not with me, I pull out the running trampoline and run for twenty or thirty minutes as the Kilchers celebrate Thanksgiving or take a friend out to a distant Alaskan island. I don’t usually manage 10,000 steps a day, which is the goal, but I manage more than I would without FitBit; she keeps me aware that I need to move.
She tracks my sleep. I have discovered I am not a good judge of how well I sleep. There are some nights I think I was awake a lot and I discover that no, I might have been awake for a ten minute period, but I slept well most of the time. There are nights I believe I have slept well, but she shows me I was restless 14 times (that can happen when the love-of-your-life has a cold and is coughing). She even gives me a percentage of how efficiently I sleep; I find this very reassuring.
She also tracks – if you ask her to – food, activities, glucose, weight and some other factors. She will also – if you ask her to – share all your information with your closest 1500 friends.
(Gasp of horror)
No! No! That’s private information!
She also has a partner, a wireless scale that will send the information right to your dashboard, and to your monthly evaluation.
Again, no. No, not for me. I don’t share that information, not with anyone. Some things are just private.
She is faithful. She warns me when she is running out of steam and needs to be recharged. She is always with me, unless I forget her. She’s been with me about a year, and I find that unlike some devices that I quickly decide are not-the-real-me, she is a good, helpful friend. She lets me set the pace, and she respects my boundaries. Her respect for my boundaries allows me to step up my pace to try to please her. 🙂 She acknowledges my flaws, but she is faithful anyway, and, as I said before, she minds her own business and doesn’t nag me.
All in all, our friendship is a great success.
Most people know that the United States has a childhood obesity problem. Less well known is that according to the latest data from the OECD is that we are not actually the world leaders in experiencing this issue. It’s Greece and Italy who have the most overweight kids:
This may not jibe with a lot of hype about the benefits of the Mediterranean diet but it turns out that said diet may no longer be especially popular in Greece and Italy. In 2008, Josef Schmidhuber of the UN Food and Agricultural Organization said traditional eating patterns in southern Europe had “decayed into a moribund state” and drastically increased their overall calorie intake and especially consumption of animal fat, salt, and sweeteners.
From AOL News/ Huffpost:
By MARIA CHENG
LONDON (AP) — Almost a third of the world is now fat, and no country has been able to curb obesity rates in the last three decades, according to a new global analysis.
Researchers found more than 2 billion people worldwide are now overweight or obese. The highest rates were in the Middle East and North Africa, where nearly 60 percent of men and 65 percent of women are heavy. The U.S. has about 13 percent of the world’s fat population, a greater percentage than any other country. China and India combined have about 15 percent.
“It’s pretty grim,” said Christopher Murray of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, who led the study. He and colleagues reviewed more than 1,700 studies covering 188 countries from 1980 to 2013. “When we realized that not a single country has had a significant decline in obesity, that tells you how hard a challenge this is.”
Murray said there was a strong link between income and obesity; as people get richer, their waistlines also tend to start bulging. He said scientists have noticed accompanying spikes in diabetes and that rates of cancers linked to weight, like pancreatic cancer, are also rising.
The new report was paid for by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and published online Thursday in the journal, Lancet.
Last week, the World Health Organization established a high-level commission tasked with ending childhood obesity.
“Our children are getting fatter,” Dr. Margaret Chan, WHO’s director-general, said bluntly during a speech at the agency’s annual meeting in Geneva. “Parts of the world are quite literally eating themselves to death.” Earlier this year, WHO said that no more than 5 percent of your daily calories should come from sugar.
“Modernization has not been good for health,” said Syed Shah, an obesity expert at United Arab Emirates University, who found obesity rates have jumped five times in the last 20 years even in a handful of remote Himalayan villages in Pakistan. His research was presented this week at a conference in Bulgaria. “Years ago, people had to walk for hours if they wanted to make a phone call,” he said. “Now everyone has a cellphone.”
Shah also said the villagers no longer have to rely on their own farms for food.
“There are roads for (companies) to bring in their processed foods and the people don’t have to slaughter their own animals for meat and oil,” he said. “No one knew about Coke and Pepsi 20 years ago. Now it’s everywhere.”
In Britain, the independent health watchdog issued new advice Wednesday recommending that heavy people be sent to free weight-loss classes to drop about 3 percent of their weight. It reasoned that losing just a few pounds improves health and is more realistic. About two in three adults in the U.K. are overweight, making it the fattest country in Western Europe.
“This is not something where you can just wake up one morning and say, ‘I am going to lose 10 pounds,'” said Mike Kelly, the agency’s public health director, in a statement. “It takes resolve and it takes encouragement.”
This is from AOL News: “The rats go for the sugar and it is eight times more addictive than cocaine” in studies done on sugary foods.
A U.S. doctor is making it his mission to publicly highlight some scary effects sugar has on the body. The chairman of the Institute for Functional Medicine says we’re becoming more dependent on sugary foods and drinks – saying they’re even more addictive than cocaine.
On”CBS This Morning,” Dr. Mark Hyman said, “In animal studies, they find that the rats go for the sugar and that it’s eight times as addictive as cocaine. Small amounts of sugar can be part of a normal diet, but most of us are addicted to sugar and don’t know it.”
Hyman himself has gone as far as calling sugar and sugary foods “deadly.”
He told the New York Daily News that “sugar is the new nicotine. And worse, sugar actually causes diabetes and obesity.”
The doctor’s trying to help people find ways to lessen their dependence on sugar with tips from his book, “The Blood Sugar Solution 10-Day Detox Diet.”
On the book’s website, Dr. Hyman says 600 people took part in the diet, which encourages healthier eating habits. Together, they lost more than 4,000 pounds, and their average blood pressure fell by about 10 points.
Dr. Hyman told New York Daily News the average American eats 152 pounds of sugar a year. Whoa.
DUBAI: KT ABDURABB
Thursday 18 July 2013
Last Update 18 July 2013 2:26 am
Need some motivation to cut that flab? If you live in Dubai, you can win gold to do just that. A new campaign “You are Worth … Your Weight in Gold” is aimed at promoting a healthy lifestyle and achieving optimal body weight. The contest is open for public.
The winner will be the one who loses maximum weight during the program period of 30 days from its inception on Friday this week. The top three winners will get a gold coin equivalent to AED 20,000. Other participants will get a gram of gold for each kilo reduced from their body weight. However, the minimum weight to lose for the eligibility is two kilograms.
Addressing a press conference on Tuesday, Dubai Municipality officials said the winners will get two grams of gold if they could reduce at least two kilograms within one month.
Hussain Nasser Lootah, director-general of Dubai Municipality, said the initiative comes after the grand success of ‘Yallah Walk’ campaign launched in 2011.
“It is also aimed at introducing walking tracks in different parks in the city of Dubai. Walking is an easy and economic way to stay fit and healthy. The municipality has provided residents with safe and accessible walking tracks in urban and rural areas,’ Lootah said.
“Currently Dubai has a total of 91 places where one can practice sport activities. These include residential parks, public parks, jogging track and beaches. In addition to this, every year the civic body opens new parks in more areas and adds sports equipments and tools for the public to promote a healthy community, he said.
“Ramadan is the most appropriate season to launch such initiatives as it reminds us about many health benefits of reducing weight and encourages us to take strong steps to change our bad lifestyles,’ he added.
The weight of each participant will be measured during registration and at the end of program. Participants can register at the event sites any day during the period. Participants must have excess weight to reduce and stay away from unhealthy methods to lose weight.
The final weight will be measured after the Eid holidays on Aug. 16.
Ahmed bin Sulayem, executive chairman of Dubai Multi Commodities Center (DMCC), said the DMCC is proud to support this health awareness drive to encourage society to change their daily routines in return for a healthier lifestyle.
‘We would highly encourage everyone from all walks of life to take part in this great initiative and hope DMCC’s contribution of AED 100,000 worth of gold coins will help motivate individuals reach the final target of improving and sustaining a healthy lifestyle and consequently a better quality of life,’ he said.
“I am sure Dubai can be the role model and astonish the world by its innovative ideas and initiatives,” said Anil Dhanak, general manager of Dubai Gold & Jewelry Group.”
From the UK Daily Mail Online:
The Western diet really IS a killer: People who eat white bread, butter and red meat are most likely to die young
- Those who ate fried and unhealthy food had doubled risk of early death
- Key culprits include red meat, white bread, butter, cream and sweet foods
- Findings ‘help explain’ why heart disease is still the UK’s biggest killer
PUBLISHED: 13:20 EST, 16 April 2013 | UPDATED: 02:08 EST, 17 April 2013
The typical Western diet, high in fat and sugar, really does lead to an early grave, new research suggests.
A study of more than 5,000 civil servants found those who ate the most fried and sweet food, processed and red meat, white bread and butter and cream doubled their risk of premature death or ill health in old age.
It adds to evidence that ‘Western style food’ is the reason why heart disease claims about 94,000 lives a year in the UK – more than any other illness.
The findings published in The American Journal of Medicine are based on a survey of British adults and suggest adherence to the diet increases the risk of premature death and disability later in life.
Lead researcher, Dr Tasnime Akbaraly, of the National Institute of Health and Medical Research in France, said: ‘The impact of diet on specific age-related diseases has been studied extensively, but few investigations have adopted a more holistic approach to determine the association of diet with overall health at older ages.’
She examined whether diet, assessed in midlife, using dietary patterns and adherence to the Alternative Healthy Eating Index (AHEI), is associated with physical ageing 16 years later.
The AHEI is an index of diet quality, originally designed to provide dietary guidelines with the specific intention to combat major chronic conditions such as heart disease and diabetes.
Dr Akbaraly added: ‘We showed that following specific dietary recommendations such as the one provided by the AHEI may be useful in reducing the risk of unhealthy ageing, while avoidance of the “Western-type foods” might actually improve the possibility of achieving older ages free of chronic diseases.’
The researchers analysed data from the British Whitehall II cohort study and found following the AHEI can double the odds of reversing metabolic syndrome, a range of disorders known to cause heart disease and mortality.
They followed 3,775 men and 1,575 women from 1985-2009 with a mean age of 51 years.
Using a combination of hospital data, results of screenings conducted every five years, and registry data, investigators identified death rates and chronic diseases among participants.
At the follow up stage, just four per cent had achieved ‘ideal ageing’ – classed as being free of chronic conditions and having high performance in physical, mental and mental agility tests.
About 12 per cent had suffered a non-fatal cardiovascular event such as a stroke or heart attack, while almost three per cent had died from cardiovascular disease.
About three quarters were categorised as going through ‘normal ageing’.
The researchers said participants who hadn’t really stuck to the AHEI increased their risk of death, either from heart disease or another cause.
Those who followed a ‘Western-type diet’ consisting of fried and sweet food, processed food and red meat, refined grains, and high-fat dairy products, lowered their chances for ideal ageing.
Most people I know these days are trying to eat less meat. In the readings for today, we start the story of Daniel, a story every Christian child learns in Sunday School, but when you read as an adult, you see different things. This morning, doing the readings from the Lectionary, I smiled to see that Daniel and his companions wanted only vegetables; they were working very hard not to violate their food laws.
I also wonder if not eating meat was helpful in the den of lions; maybe they smelled less interesting as vegetarians? Then again, lions eat impalas, wildebeest, all sorts of vegetarians, so that probably was not a factor . . . 🙂
1In the third year of the reign of King Jehoiakim of Judah, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. 2The Lord let King Jehoiakim of Judah fall into his power, as well as some of the vessels of the house of God. These he brought to the land of Shinar,* and placed the vessels in the treasury of his gods.
3 Then the king commanded his palace master Ashpenaz to bring some of the Israelites of the royal family and of the nobility, 4young men without physical defect and handsome, versed in every branch of wisdom, endowed with knowledge and insight, and competent to serve in the king’s palace; they were to be taught the literature and language of the Chaldeans. 5The king assigned them a daily portion of the royal rations of food and wine. They were to be educated for three years, so that at the end of that time they could be stationed in the king’s court. 6Among them were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, from the tribe of Judah. 7The palace master gave them other names: Daniel he called Belteshazzar, Hananiah he called Shadrach, Mishael he called Meshach, and Azariah he called Abednego.
8 But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the royal rations of food and wine; so he asked the palace master to allow him not to defile himself. 9Now God allowed Daniel to receive favour and compassion from the palace master. 10The palace master said to Daniel, ‘I am afraid of my lord the king; he has appointed your food and your drink. If he should see you in poorer condition than the other young men of your own age, you would endanger my head with the king.’
11Then Daniel asked the guard whom the palace master had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah: 12‘Please test your servants for ten days. Let us be given vegetables to eat and water to drink. 13You can then compare our appearance with the appearance of the young men who eat the royal rations, and deal with your servants according to what you observe.’ 14So he agreed to this proposal and tested them for ten days. 15At the end of ten days it was observed that they appeared better and fatter than all the young men who had been eating the royal rations. 16So the guard continued to withdraw their royal rations and the wine they were to drink, and gave them vegetables. 17To these four young men God gave knowledge and skill in every aspect of literature and wisdom; Daniel also had insight into all visions and dreams.
18 At the end of the time that the king had set for them to be brought in, the palace master brought them into the presence of Nebuchadnezzar, 19and the king spoke with them. And among them all, no one was found to compare with Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah; therefore they were stationed in the king’s court. 20In every matter of wisdom and understanding concerning which the king inquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom. 21And Daniel continued there until the first year of King Cyrus.
What I love about the report of this study is that all the related researchers have gone to a Mediterranean diet – see the end of this article 🙂 I found this article at the New York Times.
About 30 percent of heart attacks, strokes and deaths from heart disease can be prevented in people at high risk if they switch to a Mediterranean diet rich in olive oil, nuts, beans, fish, fruits and vegetables, and even drink wine with meals, a large and rigorous new study has found.
The findings, published on The New England Journal of Medicine’s Web site on Monday, were based on the first major clinical trial to measure the diet’s effect on heart risks. The magnitude of the diet’s benefits startled experts. The study ended early, after almost five years, because the results were so clear it was considered unethical to continue.
The diet helped those following it even though they did not lose weight and most of them were already taking statins, or blood pressure or diabetes drugs to lower their heart disease risk.
“Really impressive,” said Rachel Johnson, a professor of nutrition at the University of Vermont and a spokeswoman for the American Heart Association. “And the really important thing — the coolest thing — is that they used very meaningful endpoints. They did not look at risk factors like cholesterol or hypertension or weight. They looked at heart attacks and strokes and death. At the end of the day, that is what really matters.”
Until now, evidence that the Mediterranean diet reduced the risk of heart disease was weak, based mostly on studies showing that people from Mediterranean countries seemed to have lower rates of heart disease — a pattern that could have been attributed to factors other than diet.
And some experts had been skeptical that the effect of diet could be detected, if it existed at all, because so many people are already taking powerful drugs to reduce heart disease risk, while other experts hesitated to recommend the diet to people who already had weight problems, since oils and nuts have a lot of calories.
Heart disease experts said the study was a triumph because it showed that a diet was powerful in reducing heart disease risk, and it did so using the most rigorous methods. Scientists randomly assigned 7,447 people in Spain who were overweight, were smokers, or had diabetes or other risk factors for heart disease to follow the Mediterranean diet or a low-fat one.
Low-fat diets have not been shown in any rigorous way to be helpful, and they are also very hard for patients to maintain — a reality borne out in the new study, said Dr. Steven E. Nissen, chairman of the department of cardiovascular medicine at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation.
“Now along comes this group and does a gigantic study in Spain that says you can eat a nicely balanced diet with fruits and vegetables and olive oil and lower heart disease by 30 percent,” he said. “And you can actually enjoy life.”
The study, by Dr. Ramon Estruch, a professor of medicine at the University of Barcelona, and his colleagues, was long in the planning. The investigators traveled the world, seeking advice on how best to answer the question of whether a diet alone could make a big difference in heart disease risk. They visited the Harvard School of Public Health several times to consult Dr. Frank M. Sacks, a professor of cardiovascular disease prevention there.
In the end, they decided to randomly assign subjects at high risk of heart disease to three groups. One would be given a low-fat diet and counseled on how to follow it. The other two groups would be counseled to follow a Mediterranean diet. At first the Mediterranean dieters got more intense support. They met regularly with dietitians while members of the low-fat group just got an initial visit to train them in how to adhere to the diet, followed by a leaflet each year on the diet. Then the researchers decided to add more intensive counseling for them, too, but they still had difficulty staying with the diet.
One group assigned to a Mediterranean diet was given extra-virgin olive oil each week and was instructed to use at least 4 four tablespoons a day. The other group got a combination of walnuts, almonds and hazelnuts and was instructed to eat about an ounce of the mix each day. An ounce of walnuts, for example, is about a quarter cup — a generous handful. The mainstays of the diet consisted of at least three servings a day of fruits and at least two servings of vegetables. Participants were to eat fish at least three times a week and legumes, which include beans, peas and lentils, at least three times a week. They were to eat white meat instead of red, and, for those accustomed to drinking, to have at least seven glasses of wine a week with meals.
They were encouraged to avoid commercially made cookies, cakes and pastries and to limit their consumption of dairy products and processed meats.
To assess compliance with the Mediterranean diet, researchers measured levels of a marker in urine of olive oil consumption — hydroxytyrosol — and a blood marker of nut consumption — alpha-linolenic acid.
The participants stayed with the Mediterranean diet, the investigators reported. But those assigned to a low-fat diet did not lower their fat intake very much. So the study wound up comparing the usual modern diet, with its regular consumption of red meat, sodas and commercial baked goods, with a diet that shunned all that.
Dr. Estruch said he thought the effect of the Mediterranean diet was due to the entire package, not just the olive oil or nuts. He did not expect, though, to see such a big effect so soon. “This is actually really surprising to us,” he said.
The researchers were careful to say in their paper that while the diet clearly reduced heart disease for those at high risk for it, more research was needed to establish its benefits for people at low risk. But Dr. Estruch said he expected it would also help people at both high and low risk, and suggested that the best way to use it for protection would be to start in childhood.
Not everyone is convinced, though. Dr. Caldwell Blakeman Esselstyn Jr., the author of the best seller “Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease: The Revolutionary, Scientifically Proven, Nutrition-Based Cure,” who promotes a vegan diet and does not allow olive oil, dismissed the study.
His views and those of another promoter of a very-low-fat diet, Dr. Dean Ornish, president of the nonprofit Preventive Medicine Research Institute, have influenced many to try to become vegan. Former President Bill Clinton, interviewed on CNN, said Dr. Esselstyn’s and Dr. Ornish’s writings helped convince him that he could reverse his heart disease in that way.
Dr. Esselstyn said those in the Mediterranean diet study still had heart attacks and strokes. So, he said, all the study showed was that “the Mediterranean diet and the horrible control diet were able to create disease in people who otherwise did not have it.”
Others hailed the study.
“This group is to be congratulated for carrying out a study that is nearly impossible to do well,” said Dr. Robert H. Eckel, a professor of medicine at the University of Colorado and a past president of the American Heart Association.
As for the researchers, they have changed their own diets and are following a Mediterranean one, Dr. Estruch said.
“We have all learned,” he said.