A high-fat Mediterranean diet may protect against breast cancer, diabetes and heart disease
"Healthy" fats are found in olive oil, eggs, nuts and fatty fish
Are you avoiding fats in your daily diet? It may be time to stop – that is, if your daily diet is Mediterranean.
A new paper confirms that a Mediterranean diet rich in “healthy” fats – such as those found in olive oil, eggs, nuts and fatty fish – might lower your risk of heart disease, breast cancer and type 2 diabetes.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death among adults in the United States, followed by cancer, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
More research is needed to determine exactly why certain foods in a high-fat Mediterranean diet are associated with a lower risk of cancer and other ailments, said Dr. Hanna Bloomfield, core investigator at the Department of Veterans Affairs Center for Chronic Disease Outcomes Research and lead author of the paper.
“It is not known but may be because of an anti-inflammatory effect,” she added. Nonetheless, the paper offers even more support for the long list of benefits that the diet offers.
For the paper, which was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine on Monday, researchers reviewed 332 previous studies and analyzed about 56 of those studies, taking a close look at the health benefits of a Mediterranean diet that included a lot of fat.
“Healthy fats are mono-unsaturated fats as found in olive oil, canola oil and avocados,” Bloomfield said. Unhealthy fats include saturated and trans fats, such as those found in potato chips.
The researchers described a Mediterranean diet as a diet that placed no restriction on fat intake and included two or more of seven components:
- High mono-unsaturated-to-saturated fat ratio, which can be the result of using olive oil as a main cooking ingredient
- High fruit and vegetable intake
- High consumption of dark green leafy vegetables
- High grain and cereal intake
- Moderate red wine consumption
- Moderate consumption of dairy products
- Low consumption of red meat and meat products with an increased consumption of fish
The analysis showed that even though such a diet may not affect overall mortality, it may be effective at reducing incidences of certain diseases.
“I was not surprised because the literature on which this study was based has been out there for a while,” Bloomfield said.
Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, dean of the Tufts Friedman School of Nutrition Science & Policy who was not involved in the new paper, said that he’s also not surprised by these results.
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Separate research published in the journal Lancet last month found that a high-fat Mediterranean diet may be more effective than a low-fat diet at helping you lose weight.
“Probably because people who are on fat-restricted diets tend to get more of their calories from sugar, such as soda, and unrefined grains,” Bloomfield said.
She advises that Americans incorporate more avocado, nuts and olive oil in their daily diets in order to consume more “healthy” fat.