Tag Archives: Mediterranean diet

Recipe: AMD Vinaigrette

Steve Parker MD, Advanced Mediterranean Diet

Two diet books in one

Try this vinaigrette on salads, fresh vegetables, or as a marinade for chicken, fish, or beef. If using as a marinade, keep the entree/marinade combo in the refrigerator for 4–24 hours. Freshly seasoned vinaigrettes taste even better if you let them sit for several hours after preparation.

I’ll warn you, this is pretty spicy and tangy. If you prefer less flavor (is that the right word?), either use less of it, or reduce these particular ingredients by half: lemon juice, salt, pepper, paprika, and mustard.

This recipe was in my first book, The Advanced Mediterranean Diet from 2007; hence, “AMD vinaigrette.”

Ingredients:

2 garlic cloves (6 g), minced

juice from 1 lemon (40–50 ml)

2/3 cup (160 ml) extra virgin oil olive

4 tbsp (16 g or 60 ml) fresh parsley, finely chopped

1 tsp (5 ml) salt

1 tsp (5 ml) yellow mustard

1 tsp (5 ml) paprika

4 tbsp (60 ml) red wine or apple cider vinegar

Preparation:

In a bowl, combine all ingredients and whisk together. Alternatively, you can put all ingredients in a jar with a lid and shake vigorously—my preferred method. Let sit at room temperature for an hour, for flavors to meld. Then refrigerate. It should “keep” for at least 5 days in refrigerator. The olive oil will solidify, so take it out and set at room temperature for an hour before using. Shake before using.

Number of Servings: 6 servings of 2 tbsp (30 ml). (In Australia and NZ, you guys say “serves” instead of servings, right mate?)

Nutritional Analysis:

98 % fat

2 % carbohydrate

0 % protein

220 calories

1.4 g carbohydrate

0.3 g fiber

1 g digestible carbohydrate

400 mg sodium

41 mg potassium

(You may see a slightly different nutritional analysis—2 g of digestible carb versus 1 g here—at one of my other blogs. That’s the difference between Fitday.com (here) and NutritionData, and rounding.)

Mediterranean Diet Helps With Maintenance of Weight Loss After Ketogenic Diet

Italian seaside tangentially related to this post

Italian seaside tangentially related to this post

Investigators affiliated with universities in Italy and Greece wondered about the effect on obesity of two ketogenic “Mediterranean” diet spells interspersed with a traditional Mediterranean diet over the course of one year. They found significant weight loss, and perhaps more importantly, no regain of lost weight over the year, on average.

This scientific study is right up my alley. I was excited when I found it. Less excited after I read it.

The Set-Up

This was a retrospective review of medical records of patients of a private nutritional service in three fitness and weight control centers in Italy between 2006 and 2010. It’s unclear whether patients were paying for fitness/weight loss services. 327 patient records were examined. Of these, 89 obese participants met the inclusion and exclusion criteria and started the program; 68 completed it and were the ones analyzed. (That’s not at all a bad drop-out rate for a year-long study.)  The completers were 59 males and 12 females (I know, the numbers don’t add up, but that’s what they reported). Ages were between 25 and 65. Average weight was 101 kg (222 lb), average BMI 35.8, average age 49. All were Caucasian. No diabetics.

Here’s the program:

  1. 20 days of a very-low-carb ketogenic diet, then
  2. 20 days of a low-carbohydrate non-ketogenic diet for stabilization, then
  3. 4 months of a normal caloric Mediterranean diet, then
  4. repeat #1 and #2, then
  5. 6 months of a normal caloric Mediterranean diet

In the ketogenic phases, which the authors referred to as KEMEPHY, participants followed a commercially available protocol called TISANOREICA. KEMEPHY is combination of four herbal extracts that is ill-defined (at least in this article), with the idea of ameliorating weakness and tiredness during ketosis. The investigators called this a ketogenic Mediterranean diet, although I saw little “Mediterranean” about it. They ate “beef & veal, poultry, fish, raw and cooked green vegetables without restriction, cold cuts (dried beef, carpaccio and cured ham), eggs and seasoned cheese (e.g., parmesan).” Coffee and tea were allowed. Items to avoid included alcohol, bread, pasta, rice, milk, and yogurt. “In addition to facilitate the adhesion to the nutritional regime, each subject was given a variety of specialty meals constituted principally of protein and fibers. “These meals (TISANOREICA) that are composed of a protein blend obtained from soya, peas, oats (equivalent to 18 g/portion) and virtually zero carbohydrate (but that mimic their taste) were included in the standard ration.” They took a multivitamin every morning. Prescribed carbohydrate was about 30 grams a day, with macronutrient distribution of 12% carb, 36 or 41% protein, and 51 0r 52% fat. It appears that prescribed daily calories averaged 976 (but how can that be prescribed when some food items are “unrestricted”?).

I found little explanation of period #2 mentioned above, the low-carb non-ketogenic diet. Prescribed macronutrients were 25 or 33% carb, 27 0r 31% protein, 41 or 44% fat, and about 91 g carbohydrate. Prescribed daily calories appear to have averaged 1111.

After the first and second active weight loss ketogenic phases, participants ate what sounds like a traditional Mediterranean diet. Average prescribed macronutrient distribution was 57% carbohydrate, 15 % protein, and 27% fat. Wine was allowed. It looks like 1800 calories a day were recommended.

Food consumption was measured via analysis of 3-day diaries, but you have to guess how often that was done because the authors don’t say. The results of the diary analyses are not reported.

What Did They Find?

Most of the weight loss occurred during the two ketogenic phases. Average weight loss in the first ketogenic period was 7.4 kg (16 lb), and another 5.2 kg (11 lb) in the second ketogenic period. Overall average weight loss for the entire year was 16.1 kg (35 lb).

Average systolic blood pressure over the year dropped a statistically significant 8 units over the year, from 125 to 116 mmHg.

Over the 12 months, they found stable and statistically significant drops in total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol (“bad cholesterol”), triglycerides, and blood sugar levels. No change in HDL cholesterol (“good cholesterol”).

Liver and kidney function tests didn’t change.

The authors didn’t give explanations for the drop-outs.

Although the group on average didn’t regain lost weight, eight participants regained most of it. The investigators write that “…the post dietary analysis showed that they were not compliant with nutritional guidelines given for the Mediterranean diet period. These subjects returned tho their previous nutrition habits (“junk” food, high glycaemic index, etc.) with a mean “real” daily intake of 2470 Kcal rather than the prescribed 1800 Kcal.”

Comments

A key take-home point for me is that the traditional Mediterranean diet prevented the weight regain that we see with many, if not most, successful diets.

However, most formulas for calculating steady state caloric requirements would suggest these guys would burn more than the 1800 daily calories recommended to them during the “normal calorie” months. How hard did the dieters work to keep calories around 1800? We can only speculate.

Although the researchers describe the long periods of traditional Mediterranean diet as “normal caloric,” they don’t say how that calorie level was determined  and achieved in the real world. Trust me, you can get fat eating the Mediterranean diet if you eat too much.

I’ll be the first to admit a variety of weight loss diets work, at least short-term. The problem is that people go back to their old ways of eating regain much of the lost weight, typically starting six months after starting the program. It was smart for the investigators to place that second ketogenic phase just before the typical regain would have started!

There are so few women in this study that it would be impossible to generalize results to women. Why so few? Furthermore, weight loss and other results weren’t broken down for each sex.

I suspect the results of this study will be used for marketing KEMEPHY and TISANOREICA. For all I know, that’s why the study was done. We’re trusting the investigators to have done a fair job choosing which patient charts to analyze retrospectively. They could have cherry-picked only the good ones. Some of the funding was from universities, some was from Gianluca Mech SpA (what’s that?).

How much of the success of this protocol is due to the herbal extracts and TISANOREICA, I have no idea.

The authors made no mention of the fact the average fasting glucose at baseline was 103 mg/dl (5.7 mmol/l). That’s elevated into the prediabetic range. So probably half of these folks had prediabetes. After the one-year program, average fasting glucose was normal at 95 mg/dl (5.3 mmol/l).

The improved lipids, blood sugars, and lower blood pressure may have simply reflected successful weight loss and therefore could have been achieved  by a variety of diets.

The authors attribute their success to the weight-losing metabolic effects of the ketogenic diet (particularly the relatively high protein content), combined with the traditional Mediterranean diet preventing weight regain.

The authors write:

The Mediterranean diet is associated with a longer life span, lower rates of coronary heart disease, hypercholesterolemia, hypertension, diabetes and obesity. But it is difficult to isolate the “healthy” constituents of the Mediterranean diet, since it is not a single entity and varies between regions and countries. All things considered there is no “one size fits all” dietary recommendation and for this reason we have tried to merge the benefits of these two approaches: the long term “all-life” Mediterranean diet coupled with brief periods of a metabolism enhancing ketogenic diet.

I’ve attempted a similar merger with my Low-Carb Mediterranean Diet. Click here for an outline. Another stab at it was the Spanish Ketogenic Mediterranean Diet. And here’s my version of a Ketogenic Mediterranean Diet.

Steve Parker, M.D.

Reference: Paoli, Antonio, et al. Long Term Successful Weight Loss with a Combination Biphasic Ketogenic Mediterranean Diet and Mediterranean Diet Maintenance Protocol. Nutrients, 5 (2013): 5205-5217. doi: 10.3390/nu5125205

New Guidelines Recommend Mediterranean Diet for Those With Stroke and Transient Ischemic Attack

MedPageToday has the details from the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association. Here’s the pertinent quote:

It … is reasonable to recommend adherence to a Mediterranean-type diet that includes vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low-fat dairy, poultry, fish, legumes, olive oil, and nuts, and limits sweets and red meats.

But how much of those components? Click for my general recommendations

How to Preserve Brain Function Despite Aging

There are ways of slowing or reversing losses in cognitive function. The most effective discovered so far is physical exercise, which protects the brain by protecting the body’s cardiovascular health. Mental exercise, often called brain training, is widely promoted, but it boosts only the particular skill that is practised – its narrow impact mirroring that of educational interventions at other ages. Various drugs are being investigated for their value in staving off normal cognitive decline, but for now preventive maintenance is still the best bet – avoid smoking, drinking to excess, head injuries and the like.

Don’t forget regular exercise. Also, I think the Mediterranean diet helps preserve brain function, but it’s difficult to prove.

MRI scan of brain

MRI scan of brain

That quotes from an Instant Expert paper on intelligence. It’s full of interesting facts such as the typical difference in IQ between strangers is 17 points. It answers the question whether an enriched school or home environment can increase intelligence.

The article mentions overload of patients’ brains when medical care is too complicated:

Given the complexity of self-care regimes, it is hardly surprising that some people make dangerous errors or fail to comply. The effective management of diabetes, for example, requires a person to keep blood sugar levels within a healthy range, which means coordinating diet, exercise and medication throughout the day, which in turn requires planning for contingencies, recognising when blood sugar is veering too high or low, knowing how to regain control and conceptualising the imperceptible but cumulative damage caused by failing to maintain control. There is no set recipe for people with diabetes to follow – their bodies and circumstances differ. Moreover, they get little training, virtually no supervision and no days off. Effectively managing your diabetes is a cognitively complex job and poor performance has serious consequences, including emergency room visits, lost limbs or eyesight, and even death. The lower the diabetic person’s IQ, the greater the risks.

You’ll also learn about the Flynn effect and possible explanations for it:

Over the past century, each successive generation has answered more IQ test items correctly than the last, the rise being equivalent to around 3 IQ points per decade in developed nations. This is dubbed the “Flynn effect” after the political scientist James Flynn, who most thoroughly documented it. Are humans getting smarter, and if so, why? 

I’m more inclined to think Idiocracy describes our future.

Steve Parker, M.D.

h/t James Fulford

Mediterranean Diet Helps Preserve Brain Function

Well, perhaps that’s a bit of an overstatement. Preserved brain function and the Mediterranean diet were  positively associated in a study involving Americans in Utah. This fits with prior observations that the Mediterranean diet prevents dementia.

Macadamia nuts

In the study at hand, the DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) also protected the brain:

Higher levels of accordance [compliance] with both the DASH and Mediterranean dietary patterns were associated with consistently higher levels of cognitive function in elderly men and women over an 11-year period. Whole grains and nuts and legumes were positively associated with higher cognitive functions and may be core neuroprotective foods common to various healthy plant-centered diets around the globe.

See the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition for details.

Got Abdominal Obesity? Improve Your Health With Mediterranean Diet and High-Intensity Interval Training

…according to the Heart and Stroke Foundation. Some quotes:

The study found an average reduction in waist circumference of eight centimeters [3 inches], a reduction in systolic blood pressure of 6 mm Hg and an aerobic fitness improvement of 15 per cent over the first nine months of the study.

Improvements in waist circumference, blood pressure and fitness can lead to numerous other health benefits including a reduced risk of developing high blood pressure, as well as improving osteoarthritis symptoms, quality of life, physical functioning, and cognition.

The high-intensity interval training was done two or three times a week over 20-30 minutes each session. Click for an example of HIIT on a stationary bike. More basic info on HIIT.

The classic Mediterranean diet has too many carbohydrates for many diabetics, although it’s better for them than the Standard American Diet. That’s why I devised the Low-Carb Mediterranean Diet.

Steve Parker, M.D.

Book Review: Zest for Life – The Mediterranean Anti-Cancer Diet

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A couple years ago I read and reviewed Zest For Life: The Mediterranean Anti-Cancer Diet, by Conner Middelmann-Whitney, published in 2011. I guess I forget to pull and re-post my review off my old Advanced Mediterranean Diet blog. Per Amazon.com’s rating system, I give it five stars (I love it). Here it is.

 ♦   ♦   ♦

The lifetime risk of developing invasive cancer in the U.S. is four in ten: a little higher for men, a little lower for women.  Those are scary odds.  Cancer is second only to heart disease as a cause of death in western societies.  The Mediterranean diet has a well established track record of protecting against cancers of the prostate, colon/rectum, uterus, and breast.  Preliminary data suggest protection against melanoma and stomach cancer, too.  I’m not aware of any other way of eating that can make similar claims.

So it makes great sense to spread the word on how to eat Mediterranean-style, to lower your risk of developing cancer.  Such is the goal of Zest For Life’s author.  The Mediterranean diet is mostly, although by no means exclusively, plant-based.  It encourages consumption of natural, minimally processed, locally grown foods.  Generally, it’s rich in vegetables, fruits, legumes, olive oil, whole grains, red wine, and nuts. It’s low to moderate in meat, chicken, fish, eggs, and dairy products (mostly cheese and yogurt).

Note that one of the four longevity hot spots featured in Dan Buettner’s Blue Zones was Mediterranean: Sardinia.  All four Blue Zones were characterized by plant-based diets of minimally processed, locally grown foods. (I argue that Okinawa and the Nicoya Peninsula dwellers ate little meat simply due to economic factors.)

Proper diet won’t prevent all cancer, but perhaps 10-20% of common cancer cases, such as prostate, breast, colorectal, and uterine cancer.  A natural, nutrient-rich, mostly plant-based diet seems to bolster our defenses against cancer.

Ms. Middelmann-Whitney is no wacko claiming you can cure your cancer with the right diet modifications.  She writes, “…I do not advocate food as a cancer treatment once the disease has declared itself….”

She never brings it up herself, but I detect a streak of paleo diet advocacy in her.  Several of her references are from Loren Cordain, one of the gurus of the modern paleo diet movement.

She also mentions the ideas of Michael Pollan very favorably.

She’s not as high on whole grains as most of the other current nutrition writers.  She points out that, calorie for calorie, whole grains are not as nutrient-rich as vegetables and fruits.  Speaking of which, she notes that veggies generally have more nutrients than fruits. Furthermore, she says, grain-based flours probably contribute to overweight and obesity. She suggests that many people eat too many grains and would benefit by substituting more nutrient-rich foods, such as veggies and fruits.

Some interesting things I learned were 1) the 10 most dangerous foods to eat while driving, 2) the significance of organized religion in limiting meat consumption in some Mediterranean regions, 3) we probably eat too many omega-6 fatty acids, moving the omega-6/omega-3 ratio away from the ideal of 2:1 or 3:1 (another paleo diet principle), 4) one reason nitrites are added to processed meats is to create a pleasing red color (they impair bacterial growth, too), 5) fresh herbs are better added towards the end of cooking, whereas dried herbs can be added earlier, 6) 57% of calories in western societies are largely “empty calories:” refined sugar, flour, and industrially processed vegetable oils, and 7) refined sugar consumption in the U.S. was 11 lb (5 kg) in the 1830s, rising to 155 lb (70 kg) by 2000.

Any problems with the book? Only relatively minor ones. The font size is a bit small for me; if that worries you, get the Kindle edition and choose your size.  She mentions that omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids are “essential” fats. I bet she meant to say specifically that linolenic and linoleic fatty acids are essential (our bodies can’t make them); linolenic happens to be an omega-3, linoleic is an omega-6.  Reference #8 in chapter three is missing.  She states that red and processed meats cause cancer (the studies are inconclusive).  I’m not sure that cooking in or with polyunsaturated plant oils causes formation of free radicals that we need to worry about.

As would be expected, the author and I don’t see eye to eye on everything.  For example, she worries about bisphenol-A, pesticide residue, saturated fat, excessive red meat consumption, and strongly prefers pastured beef and free-range chickens and eggs.  I don’t worry much.  She also subscribes to the “precautionary principle.”

The author shares over 150 recipes to get you started on your road to cancer prevention.  I easily found 15 I want to try.  She covers all the bases on shopping for food, cooking, outfitting a basic kitchen, dining out, shopping on a strict budget, etc.  Highly practical for beginning cooks.  Numerous scientific references are listed for you skeptics.

I recommend this book to all adults, particularly for those with a strong family history of cancer.  But following the author’s recommendations would do more than lower your risk of cancer.  You’d likely have a longer lifespan, lose some excess fat weight,  and lower your risk of type 2 diabetes, dementia, heart disease, stroke, and vision loss from macular degeneration.  Particularly compared to the standard American diet.

Steve Parker, M.D.

Disclosure: The author arranged a free copy of the book for me, otherwise I recieved nothing of value for writing this review.

2013 Was Good For the Mediterranean Diet

Larry Huston, a long-time writer on things cardiologic, notes that:

It was a good year for the Mediterranean Diet. The PREDIMED study provided the best supporting evidence yet, though it seems unlikely if anyone will ever be able to sort out the specific role of the individual components of the Mediterranean diet, which include wine, olive oil, nuts, fish, and, of course, less tangible things like sunshine and lifestyle. The nuts component received a separate boost from the publication of an influential paper in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Actually, Harvard and U. of Athens researchers have an idea which components of the Mediterranean diet prolong life.

Mediterranean Diet Prolongs Life Even If You Have Existing Cardiovascular Disease

More evidence in favor of the Mediterranean diet as the healthiest around

More evidence in favor of the Mediterranean diet as the healthiest around

We’ve known for years that the Mediterranean diet helps prolong life and prevent heart attacks, cancer, and strokes in folks who start out healthy.

What about patients with existing cardiovascular disease? I’m talking about history of heart attacks, strokes, angina, and coronary artery disease.

Yep. The Mediterranean diet helps them live longer, too.

Details of the study are at the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. The research was done at Harvard.

Mediterranean Diet Once Again LInked to Reduced Age-Related Brain Decline

…particularly in Australian men at high genetic risk for Alzheimer’s disease. MedPageToday has the details.