Friday, February 12, 2010

Remember the olive oil!

A new study shows that a 'Mediterranean' diet is good for your mental health. This gets CNN headlines, but is about as much a surprise as that the Grinch steals Christmas. Things good for your cardiovascular health are good for reducing risks of stroke and so on, and that includes reduction in risk of dementias.

Mediterranean diets are high in olive oil (and wine!):
A Mediterranean diet includes a lot of fruit, vegetables and fish, olive oil, legumes and cereals, and fewer dishes containing dairy, meat, poultry, and saturated fatty acids than other diets. It also involves small to moderate amounts of alcohol.
So says this story. It of course tempers the alcohol part as any good Puritan American story must. Wine for breakfast and lunch, common in the Middle Sea countries, could never openly be advocated.

Still, high fats like cheese, preserved meat, and so on are known to be associated with high risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD). About 20 years ago, people in North Karelia, a region of Finland that had the world's highest CVD risk, were asked to swap diets with a study population in Italy that had much lower risk (because they lived on rather than dying from a Mediterranean diet). The Italians, not demented, demurred. Salt fish and cheese, reindeer and bear meat are all delicious, but they can plug you up fast, apparently. However, the Finns are no fools either, and the North Karelians adopted a sea change, and tried a more Mediterranean than Baltic diet. Over a 20 year period, their CVD rates declined by about 75%! Yes, that's not a typo!

So this current story is entirely credible, but it's not much of a new story. Fortunately, when the lovely people from the lovely climate go shopping, not being demented, they are able to remember the olive oil (and the wine). You should, too!

On the other hand you probably should pay less attention to the latest attempt by media releases to get you to pay attention to scientist's latest claims to dramatic findings.

Bon appetit!

12 comments:

amie said...

This is great for me to see re-confirmed, considering where I live right now! :-)
However, I'm not so sure that Mediterraneans don't eat a lot of meat... !

Ken Weiss said...

Well, overall they don't seem to eat as much meat, fatty cheese, salted and preserved meat and fish, and so on, as northerners do.

Francesc said...

Well, last Thursday was Dijous Gras (Fat Thursday)in this corner of the Middle Sea, and, as tradition dictates, our supper consisted of egg sausage omelette and crackling cake ("crackling" as in "subcutaneous pig fat"; the whole thing is a puff pastry topped with ground cracklings, sugar and anise). You might as well call it Artery-Plug Thursday!

Of course, we had an excuse this year, with quite an unusually cold winter! (sorry, Amie!)

amie said...

Sí, perquè fa tant fred?? M'ha sorprès molt! :-)

Ken Weiss said...

Francesc may be able to translate this....but I can't (assuming it's in Catalan)

What this shows is that Mediterranean people can survive Plug 'n Play Day

Francesc said...

Google Translate translates also from and to Catalan (and it's quite likely Amie didn't use it!). And Amie asked why is it so cold and said she' surprised.

Well, cold... A touch of frost one morning and a few tiny snow flakes yesterday, highs in the 40s... Definitely, not State-College-cold, but unusual nonetheless.

Anne Buchanan said...

Francesc, is this truita that you describe? I'm trying to find a picture - I'm with you up to the sugar and anise!

And, it's true, Amie looks pretty cold when she Skypes home. Though, no less happy!

amie said...

Truita is tortilla, as far as I have ever seen!

"the Dude" said...

Same diet for 770,000 years:
olives or olive oil, raisins or wine
roasted/peeled acorns
carp, sardine, crab, turtle
almonds, water lily nuts
found at Lake Hula site in Dead Sea Rift

Francesc said...

Truita is, and isn't, tortilla. It is in the Spanish sense of "omelette", but it isn't in the Latin American sense of "corn pancake". I described two dishes: "truita de botifarra d'ou", which is an omelette stuffed with egg sausage, and "coca de llardons", which is the puff pastry with ground cracklings on top. For the latter, you have plenty of images and even a video in the web.

These are two typical Carnival dishes, but this is also the season for a couple of vegetable treats: calçots and xató. Both can also be eaten as the centerpiece of family or friend gatherings.
"Calçots" are second-year onion sprouts; they look like baby leeks. They are eaten charcoal-grilled or broiled, charred in any case, and dipped in a roasted pepper-hazelnut-garlic-olive oil sauce. Messy, fun, and healthy!

Xató (sha-TAW) is an endive-based salad, with olives and salted fish (either anchovies or cod), seasoned with a sauce similar to that of calçots, and eaten with vegetable omelettes.

Amie may indeed look cold because many appartments, particularly the older ones, are not well cold-proofed. For instance, ceramic floor tiles feel much nicer in summer.

Anne Buchanan said...

Thank you, Francesc! The video is perfect (here, for anyone else who's curious: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y3vBJwbmIhs). You are definitely making it sound as though this is a good time of year to visit Barcelona. (Well, except that there is no bad time.) But Amie needs to know about these vegetable dishes. At least the calçots would warm her up.

Anne Buchanan said...

Dude, your comment makes me think of this old New Yorker cartoon: http://www.cartoonbank.com/2006/Somethings-just-not-right-our-air-is-clean-our-water-is-pure-we-all-get-plenty-of-exercise/invt/129771