The secret of the Mediterranean diet?, by Joanna Blythman (The Guardian)
Whoop-de-doo, researchers at King's College London and the University of California claim to have identified the "secret" underpinning the oft-quoted healthfulness of the Mediterranean diet. From their lab tests on mice (not just any old mice, genetically modified ones) they conclude that when olive oil and vegetables are eaten together, they form nitro fatty acids that help lower blood pressure – a risk factor for heart disease – by blocking the enzyme epoxide hydrolase.
Hmm. That whole thing about the Mediterranean diet -- where does that come from , anyway?
The longevity of Mediterranean populations, we were assured, was explained by their high consumption of fruit and vegetables (true), and low consumption of red meat and saturated fat (false).
In fact, no sentient visitor to southern Europe could fail to notice the reliance on fatty lamb, full-fat yoghurt and cheese (feta, mozzarella, manchego, pecorino), kebabs and slow-cooked red meat dishes, such as the Greek beef stifado. Even vegetables come stuffed with red meat. Yes, monounsaturated olive oil is the default oil of the Mediterranean region, but a serious amount of saturated fat is eaten too.
Modern perceptions of the Mediterranean diet stem from observation of dietary traditions in Crete, Greece, and southern Italy in the 1960s, when people were physically active, spent lots of time outdoors and ate shared communal meals of fresh, seasonal, homecooked, locally produced foods. That's not the same thing as bolting down a huge plate of pasta in a cook-in sauce, followed by a high-sugar, reduced-fat yoghurt, while watching MasterChef on the settee.
In the preceding paragraph, the underlining is mine, especially the "physically active" part. Following is the coda:
We may not know yet with great certainty what is good for us, but using our own powers of observation, it is crystal clear what is bad for us: a diet of processed, industrialised junk food.