Good old healthy Mediterranean diet. Marketed as a wonder of olive oil that had nothing to do with oil of any sort what so ever except in the measure that it can replace even worse choices like a regular saturated fat like butter and lard. That is precisely how even the father of the Mediterranean diet saw it (1). When you go to pubmed.gov and search for a Mediterranean diet, there are about 5000 results. Mediterranean diet is many diets in a lot of different countries. It can be Morocco or Greek or Spain or Italy or some other place.
However, when we talk about the Mediterranean diet what is implied is the diet on the island of Crete in the post World War 2 era. Also, what comes next is a big question: Why was heart disease rare in the Mediterranean? Meaning on the island of Crete after WW2.
In 1948 after the war and socioeconomic collapse, the government of Greece was concern about malnutrition and the health status of its citizens. They decided to invite the Rockefeller Foundation with the goal of undertaking an epidemiological study on the island of Crete. In 1952 impressed by low rates of heart disease Ancel Keys, the same scientist that was in charge of the Minnesota Starvation Experiment, noted the connection after researching the data between fat and especially saturated fat and heart disease. Although at that time he did not see cholesterol as the problem because it would mean the animal products are the guilty ones. The connection between dietary fat and heart disease was observed even earlier in the 1930s and was influential on Keys’ work, but data from Crete made him wrote a paper about it in 1953 and made public addresses. The famous Seven Country Study was to begin five years later in 1958 to investigate Keys’ concerns (www.sevencountriesstudy.com). By the 1960s it was a common belief that saturated fat contributes to heart disease. The Diet of people on the island of Crete was a catalyst for this research later on. In 1970 the Seven Country Study was presented for the first time. Now Keys lived to 100 himself and at the time was not much of the radical as cholesterol confusionists would like you to believe. He recommended eating less fat, meaning fat in meat and fat in general like eggs (or at least yolks) and dairy products and instead of eating more fish and chicken. He considered fruits and vegetables to be just the complement food, and he had a cholesterol of around 200. That number is not healthy by a long shot, but he did live to 100. The problem was that he was a doctor from the same system as any other doctor. Arteriosclerosis does not usually happen in an age like cholesterol confusionists would like us to believe because of all of the stressful blood flow.
Arteriosclerosis is a disease, not the aging process. We can go and look at arteries and measure the blood pressure of poor people in places like Crete. Keys did not see the real truth about what was real diet on Crete. He thought it was just fat and didn’t see the problem in animal protein. Animal protein correlation was overlooked even in the charts. He muddied the water by pointing just at fat.
However, even that was not good enough. Even that was over the top. In 1966, George Campbell and Thomas L. Cleave published “Diabetes, Coronary Thrombosis, and the Saccharine Disease.” They argued that chronic western diseases such as heart disease, peptic ulcers, diabetes, obesity are produced by one thing: “Refined carbohydrate disease.” It was a never-ending story. It never stopped to this day. Everything is a lie that is confronted by the opposite lie. Artificially created diet wars and confusion. It was a well design strategy that didn’t change a thing in 70 years except for kipping regular people in disease-causing money making an evil loop of misery. Even in current times, it is the same old manipulation story. In 2001, for example, in the article in Science Magazine entitled “Nutrition: The Soft Science of Dietary Fat”, Gary Taubes wrote:
“It is still a debatable proposition whether the consumption of saturated fats above recommended levels by anyone who’s not already at high risk of heart disease will increase the likelihood of untimely death…or have hundreds of millions of dollars in trials managed to generate compelling evidence that healthy individuals can extend their lives by more than a few weeks, if that, by eating less fat.”
People 70 years later think that the Mediterranean diet is healthy because of olive oil. This is an excellent illustration of a half-truth. Italian restaurants market themselves as a healthy Mediterranean diet cuisine with spaghetti carbonara and alcohol. The death rate from heart disease in Crete at that time was more than 20 times, not 20 percent, 20 times less than in the US. We statistically see this data from places like rural China and Crete and Okinawa and on and on and see that these people’s diet is simple and similar to each other. How much stupidity we have to have not to see the real story of what is happening. Scientists with a considerable level of education are not the stupid ones. They have six-figure annual income plus bonuses. They are the smart ones. We are not. Nutritional science is not secret deep underground military propulsion system laboratory research. There are no real debates in the field of nutrition, only purposely created real confusion.
So what did they eat at the island of Crete in World War 2 aftermath? The answer is the same. No meat, eggs, dairy. Just poor people food like fruit and vegetables, grains, nuts, legumes. Things that grow locally. In numbers, they ate more than 90% plant-based and meat, fish, dairy, and egg products combined is about 7%. They did eat some of the olive oil because olives grow in Crete but that is not the olive oil diet. Or the wine diet. There is nothing healthy about wine except grapes. We would be better off just drinking raw grape juice. If we look at Greece today what is it that we think we would find? They have the number 1 score in Europe in child obesity. The Island of Crete included. As soon as the economy improves the meat, cheese, sugar, and alcohol come in a package. And smoking too. Greece has a rate of tobacco consumption above 40%. The Mediterranean diet was not a local specific Mediterranean diet like Italian cuisine or Greek cuisine or such. It was a poverty diet without meat and eggs, and dairy, similar to diets in all poverty or war-stricken places, and industry does not like to mention this. Heart disease was a rarity in Greece. Was. Not anymore. And even in Crete at times of war, some rich people ate “normally” meaning eating meat every day instead of once in two weeks. Heart attacks were normal for them to, unlike for the rest of the common people that were struck by poverty. No one today eats the real Mediterranean diet anymore. The pure Mediterranean diet of today that is predominantly plant-based is not a real whole food diet. It is dominated by white flour, consumption of oil and salt, and alcohol. In Crete, they did not eat refined white pasta from the factory with a sauce full of extracted oil and bottles of wine. Alcohol is a known breast cancer risk factor even if we disregard inflammation and toxicity. That is not a health-promoting meal. Well, that is not a health-promoting meal if we do not compare it to the even worse standard American meal of today. So yes, the Mediterranean diet is healthier than the regular diet but not as healthy as a real natural human diet. Whole food plant-based diet.
The problem is that regular normal food is not tasty as refined full of salt and oil and sugar one so hardly anyone sticks to it. From a young age, children are given all of these chemicals we consider to be food, so we are addicted to them in childhood and have no real baseline anymore for comparison to what real human food is. That is why poor people’s diet works. If we disregard cholesterol and toxins and saturated fats that come from animal products and if we analyze the individual components of diet in Crete, we see that actually, it was not grains that were protective against heart attack. Grains, were more neutral and because they were whole food with fiber they had no effect on obesity or diabetes. Among the individual components in the Mediterranean diet consumption of greens and nuts actually, had most of the effects on lowering cardiovascular disease risk. Vegetarians that eat nuts have a lower risk of cardiovascular disease instead of the ones that don’t, and there are by now a number of studies on this topic also. Here is one (2) with the conclusion: “Increased frequency of nut consumption was associated with a significantly reduced risk of mortality in a Mediterranean population at high cardiovascular risk.”
Nuts have high-oil content but also high fiber content, so the oil is not immediately absorbed like fat from meat or refined oil and unlike meat or oil nuts are rich in antioxidants and other phytochemical substances. One more benefit from nuts is that when combining them with greens oil will increase phytochemical absorption of fat-soluble chemicals that are in already healthy vegetables. We do not have to go low fat and avoid nut and seed consumption and predominantly eat starch. We should eat starch and nuts and all other food in a wide variety possible. So far the science has not correlated high seed and nut consumption with any disease including obesity, except in people who have allergies. Just the opposite. They are beneficial in almost any condition. Brazil nuts are full of selenium, and walnuts are protective against cancer, lignans in flaxseed are one of the most protective chemicals against breast cancer and are also full of omega-three oils for brain function. Our ancestors had been eating raw nuts and seeds for a long time. They are our natural food as much as fruits or grains or young leaves or other green leafy vegetables.
The healthy diet is the one we had evolved and have adapted to eating. That is it.
Passages selected from a book: “Go Vegan? Review of Science: Part 1” [Milos Pokimica]
- A Keys. Olive oil and coronary heart disease. Lancet. 1987 Apr 25;1(8539):983-4
- Frequency of nut consumption and mortality risk in the PREDIMED nutrition intervention trial BMC Med. 2013 Jul 16;11:164
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