The Mediterranean Diet: how much are the benefits worth?

Writing for The Telegraph online (1st August 2017), Science Editor Sarah Knapton reviews the benefits of following the Mediterranean Diet. Knapton refers to a recent study which suggests that the Mediterranean Diet is only beneficial to those living in households earning over £35,000 (USD 45,000) per annum, and who are highly educated.

The Mediterranean diet advocates a focus on fresh fruit, vegetables, nuts, legumes, olive oil, and a daily glass of red wine.

The study, which followed nearly 19,000 men and women in Italy over a period of four years, found that the Mediterranean Diet was associated with a 15% reduction in cardiovascular disease (CVD), but only for those of higher socioeconomic status – the study investigated both household income and education level as indicators of this.

Even across those who scored similar values on the Mediterranean Diet Score (MDS), only those of higher socioeconomic status had a reduced risk of CVD. This could be due to a higher quality of food – richer in antioxidants, polyphenols and other dietary diversity markers – being financially viable only for those of higher income households.

However, Dr Tim Chico of the University of Sheffield cautions people against abandoning the diet, stating that the lack of benefits may be “due to other differences between low and high income groups, rather than the diet not being effective”. Chico concludes that the diet is still worth following as a proven means of lowering the risk of heart disease, no matter your socioeconomic status.

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