As a rule, I hate American nutritionists and blame the entire obesity/adult-onset diabetes epidemic in America completely on them and their idiocy. The reason I bring this up today is that on Thursday the Wall Street Journal ran a study saying that the Mediterranean diet may help people avoid Alzheimer’s.
It then goes on to explain this Mediterranean diet as follows. “The diet he tested includes eating lots of vegetables, legumes, fruits, cereals and fish, while limiting intake of meat and dairy products, drinking moderate amounts of alcohol and emphasizing monounsaturated fats, such as in olive oil, over saturated fats.”
Look, I am not saying this type of diet does not limit your likelihood of getting Alzheimer’s. I am sure these scientists did more than call a couple thousand people and ask them to describe the health level of their diet on a scale of one to ten. I am sure they took into account things like amount of hours potato chip eaters as opposed to carrot eaters spend in front of the TV instead of reading books. I am also sure they looked at factors like time spent outside walking in fresh air as opposed to driving in cars. And, most importantly, I am sure they factored in things like intellectual political discussion about topics like how asinine it is to do a dietary study of something inappropriately labeled a Mediterranean diet with friends over a glass of wine, as opposed to watching the evening news for 25 second sound-bites over a high fructose corn syrup-rich Coca Cola. Otherwise how would anyone lend any credibility to their hard scientific work?
What makes me insane is the claim that people in the Mediterranean areas have a diet that involves “limiting intake of meat and dairy products, drinking moderate amounts of alcohol and emphasizing monounsaturated fats, such as in olive oil, over saturated fats.” The truth is they are less likely to die of heart attack than us, in spite of the fact that this in no way describes their diet. Sure they eat more legumes, their governments are not busy subsidizing the development of frankencrops in grains over growing legumes, or funding asinine studies about dietary effects on Alzheimer’s rather than PCB consumption.
As for low dairy, the French consume about 42 pounds of cheese a year per capita while Americans consume about 20, and that is without splitting out what parts are natural as opposed to processed.
A diet low in meat intake? I love the Mediterranean and go often. Italians along the coast would literally stop existing if you took away their cured pork products.
And moderate alcohol consumption? The average wine consumption per capita in 2001 in France was 57.17 liters, in Spain it was 34.57, in Italy it was 52.92 in Croatia it was 43.20, in Greece it was 27.75 in Yugoslavia it was 13.11, in Slovenia it was 31.13, in Croatia it was 43.20, and in the US it was 8.77 (and I’m pretty sure I helped inflate that). Does this sound like moderation? Some of these countries on the Mediterranean consume almost seven times the wine we do.
Look, it is simply preposterous to call the diet that involves “limiting intake of meat and dairy products, drinking moderate amounts of alcohol and emphasizing monounsaturated fats, such as in olive oil, over saturated fats” a Mediterranean diet. The actual Mediterranean diet is loaded with all kinds of fats, animal, and vegetable. What it lacks is processed fats that were created by guys looking for an alternate to animal fats because idiots like Nikoloas Scarmeas and his group at the Columbia Medical Center in New York test things thing like the diet he tested.
You want to do a good experiment? Walk to a local Mediterranean place (please say you know I mean local not franchise; you are not allowed to do this experiment at Olive Garden or Romano’s), have a glass of lightly acidic wine with a huge plate of home-cured pig with its fat. Then do a round of vegetables grilled, roasted, or marinated in kinds of olive oil. Next, have a glass of nice, medium-bodied red with a small amount of pasta that has cheese and meat in it (and maybe even a touch of cream). Follow this with a small amount of protein with its fat – say a duck breast or a pan-fried veal cutlet – with a glass of some big red. Finish this all up with a couple of pieces of cheese and some fruit compote, then walk home. See if you don’t feel a little smarter.