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Mediterranean Diet: Proof It Works

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The Food Pyramid has nothing on the Mediterranean diet, when it comes to clinical nutrition. A new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine is only the latest evidence that the diet — heavy on olive oil, fish, nuts, fruit, veggies and other staples of Mediterranean cultures for centuries — prevents cancer and heart disease.

The NEJM findings come as no surprise to top cardiologist Chauncey Crandall, M.D., who has seen firsthand the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet in his heart patients and his practice.

“We’ve known for years that the Mediterranean diet is good for you,” notes Dr. Crandall, head of preventive medicine and cardiology services at the world-renowned Palm Beach Cardiovascular Clinic and a Newsmax Health contributor. “But … this study from the NEJM looks at a large population of people that live on the Mediterranean diet.

“And what we’re finding out is that these people live longer, they have a lower incidence of heart disease, they have a lower incidence of cancer. And this is a very basic diet, one that probably most of us would have followed if we had lived 300 years ago.”

Dr. Crandall tells Newsmax he has seen patients who have suffered life-threatening heart disease or a heart attack turn their lives around by following the diet and lifestyles practiced since Biblical times by people living near the Mediterranean Sea.

“The biggest thing with this diet [is] it’s a simple diet that many people can follow,” he notes. “It’s one practiced for ages, since the times of Jesus in fact. Sometimes I call it the ‘Jesus Diet.’ ”

Although Dr. Crandall and other health experts have long recommended the diet as a strong foundation for health, the new NEJM study provides the weight of additional scientific evidence to support that advice. Specifically, it found that the diet, which is rich in “good fats,” cut the risk of cardiovascular problems by 30 percent, even in people at high risk for them.

The study was notable because it subjected the Mediterranean diet to more rigorous standards than earlier, anecdotal studies.

Dr. Crandall says his patients who switch to the diet notice a difference in almost immediately.

“The biggest thing is, [No. 1] they lose weight so you notice that right away,” he explains. “The other is surprisingly their complexion changes, they have more color, their color is improved. The third is that often they’ll have mood changes that are favorable. They’re not depressed anymore and they have a better outlook on life.”

Some patients experience such profound improvements in their health that they may even be able to cut back on medications they may be taking, such as cholesterol-lowering statins.

“Absolutely, I believe in reversing heart disease, and this is a heart-disease reversing diet,” Dr. Crandall says. “When you go on this diet your cholesterol level will markedly plummet and many people are in the position where they can get off their statin drug, so it’s an encouraging diet for that reason.”

Days before the new study was released, Dr. Crandall showcased the Mediterranean diet as one of his top weapons against heart disease the March issue of his monthly Heart Health Report Newsletter.

Here are his tips for maximizing the lifesaving effects of the Mediterranean diet:

  • Regularly eat cold-water fish, like salmon, and be sure it is not farm-raised.
  • Eat organic, free-range eggs, which are richer in beneficial omega-3 fats than factory farm eggs.
  • Add nuts, walnuts, almonds, and pecans to your diet, but make sure they are raw and unsalted with no added oil.
  • Olive oil is an important component of the Mediterranean diet. Choose cold-pressed, organic olive oil.
  • If you don’t drink wine, a glass of organic grape juice will provide the same benefits.
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