Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Wine, veg and little meat 'a recipe for long life' (?)

Finally, a hint of skepticism about the much-hyped Mediterranean diet is creeping in. Since the very un-Mediterranean Australians live longer than Greeks, it is about time. To put the raw numbers below into perspective: 4% of the group who had a highly Mediterranean diet died versus 5% of those who were low on a Mediterranean diet. It's not a lot to hang your hat on and could easily be accounted for by extraneous variables. Perhaps, for instance, the most Mediterranean eaters tended to be country folk who got more exercise. Amusing, though, that "Drinking wine had the most benefit on life span". I'll drink to that!

It has long been heralded as the perfect recipe for a long life but a new study suggests that not all foods that make up the Mediterranean diet carry the same benefits. Researchers found that eating large amounts of fish and seafood or the low levels of dairy traditionally associated with the diet did little or nothing to lengthen life span.

However, drinking a glass of wine or two a day as well as large amounts of fruit, vegetables and olive oil while keeping red meat consumption to a minimum did add up to a recipe for a longer life.

The scientists behind the study claim that it is the first to identify which individual parts of the diet might contribute the most to longevity. Previous research has found that sticking to the diet can protect the brain against developing Alzheimer's and other memory problems, cut the chances of developing heart disease and even reduce the risk of being diagnosed with cancer.

The latest study, which followed 23,000 people, found that those who adhered most closely to a typical Mediterranean diet were 14 per cent more likely to still be alive at the end of eight years.

Prof Dimitrios Trichopoulos, from the Harvard School of Public Health, who led the study, said: "The analysis suggests that the dominant components of the Mediterranean diet... are moderate consumption of alcohol, mostly in the form of wine during meals, as it traditional in the Mediterranean countries, low consumption of meat and meat products, and high consumption of vegetables, fruits and nuts, olive oil and legume."

Drinking wine had the most benefit on life span the findings suggest, followed by reducing meat consumption and then eating high numbers of fruit, vegetables and nuts. There was also "clear" benefits in combining key components of the diet, such as lots of vegetables and olive oil, the researchers found. However, the findings, published online by the British Medical Journal, do not mean that eating fish carries few health benefits.

Previous studies have suggested that the omega three "good" fatty acids found in fatty fish like tuna and Salmon can help protect the mind against decline and even cut the risk that men will develop prostate cancer.

The study gave patients a score for how closely their diet resembled that of a typical Mediterranean diet, which contains lots of fish, vegetables, fruits and cereals, as well as low levels of dairy, meat and saturated fats, and just small amounts of alcohol.

Earlier this year scientists found that older people who ate a Mediterranean diet were less likely to develop Alzheimer's disease over five years.


Journal abstract follows:

Anatomy of health effects of Mediterranean diet: Greek EPIC prospective cohort study

By Antonia Trichopoulou et al.

Objective: To investigate the relative importance of the individual components of the Mediterranean diet in generating the inverse association of increased adherence to this diet and overall mortality.

Design: Prospective cohort study.

Setting: Greek segment of the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and nutrition (EPIC).

Participants: 23,349 men and women, not previously diagnosed with cancer, coronary heart disease, or diabetes, with documented survival status until June 2008 and complete information on nutritional variables and important covariates at enrolment.

Main outcome measure: All cause mortality.

Results: After a mean follow-up of 8.5 years, 652 deaths from any cause had occurred among 12,694 participants with Mediterranean diet scores 0-4 and 423 among 10,655 participants with scores of 5 or more. Controlling for potential confounders, higher adherence to a Mediterranean diet was associated with a statistically significant reduction in total mortality (adjusted mortality ratio per two unit increase in score 0.864, 95% confidence interval 0.802 to 0.932). The contributions of the individual components of the Mediterranean diet to this association were moderate ethanol consumption 23.5%, low consumption of meat and meat products 16.6%, high vegetable consumption 16.2%, high fruit and nut consumption 11.2%, high monounsaturated to saturated lipid ratio 10.6%, and high legume consumption 9.7%. The contributions of high cereal consumption and low dairy consumption were minimal, whereas high fish and seafood consumption was associated with a non-significant increase in mortality ratio.

Conclusion: The dominant components of the Mediterranean diet score as a predictor of lower mortality are moderate consumption of ethanol, low consumption of meat and meat products, and high consumption of vegetables, fruits and nuts, olive oil, and legumes. Minimal contributions were found for cereals and dairy products, possibly because they are heterogeneous categories of foods with differential health effects, and for fish and seafood, the intake of which is low in this population.

BMJ 2009;338:b2337

Australian army fined for cadet's peanut allergy death

This is pretty ridiculous. Its undoubted outcome will be to remove peanuts from all military rations and all foods sold to children. But peanuts and peanut butter are favourite foods for kids. Why should one kid with a problem be allowed to deprive all kids of something? I would have called the death a "death by misadventure". The kid surely knew he had an allergy and should have been more careful. And the parents should have made enquiries about what rations he would be served

THE Australian Defence Force has been fined more than $210,000 over the death of a teenage cadet who had an allergic reaction to peanuts in a ration pack meal. Scotch College student Nathan Francis, 13, died after suffering a severe allergic reaction to peanuts in his meal on March 30, 2007. The Melbourne boy was taking part in a Scotch College army cadet unit exercise in the Wombat State Forest in western Victoria.

Comcare, the Commonwealth occupational health and safety authority, took action in the Federal Court against the Australian Defence Force, lodging a writ last June. Justice Tony North said the case was "every parent's worst nightmare".


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