Implying that olive oil and fish protect against heart disease
No doubt everyone has heard about the big news story that broke on Monday—the one telling us the following message about lowering our risk of heart disease. From the New York Times article (see link below):
About 30 percent of heart attacks, strokes and deaths from heart disease can be prevented in people at high risk if they switch to a Mediterranean diet rich in olive oil, nuts, beans, fish, fruits and vegetables, and even drink wine with meals, a large and rigorous new study has found.
No doubt the Mediterranean Diet described in the study is more healthful than the Standard American Diet. For most people, the diet probably derives twice as many calories from whole plants as the S.A.D. But it would probably only score a 1Leaf at best on our 4Leaf scale—meaning that the diet would deliver between 20 and 39% of its calories in the form of whole plants.
No doubt, an improvement over the American average of less than 10% of calories from whole plants to 20% or more would be a big step in the right direction. The study indicates that you can lower your risk of heart disease by 30% with the Mediterranean Diet. But why don’t they tell us what doctors Esselstyn, Ornish, McDougall, Barnard and Fuhrman know? Why don’t they tell us exactly what the near-optimal diet is and how it can lower the risk of heart disease by nearly 100%.
Confusing message. In my opinion, the study and the news blitz that followed—is doing more harm than good for the average reader. People are going to hear that olive oil is good for their heart and that fish should also be a routine part of a heart-healthy diet.
They even say that you should use meat, dairy and eggs sparingly—but they don’t come out and say to eliminate those products. The article quoted Dr. Esselstyn toward the end:
His views and those of another promoter of a very-low-fat diet, Dr. Dean Ornish, president of the nonprofit Preventive Medicine Research Institute, have influenced many to try to become vegan. Former President Bill Clinton, interviewed on CNN, said Dr. Esselstyn’s and Dr. Ornish’s writings helped convince him that he could reverse his heart disease in that way.
Dr. Esselstyn said those in the Mediterranean diet study still had heart attacks and strokes. So, he said, all the study showed was that “the Mediterranean diet and the horrible control diet were able to create disease in people who otherwise did not have it.”
For me, I like to keep things simple and tell them Dr. Colin Campbell’s version of the near optimal diet—the foundation of 4Leaf for Life, “The closer we get to eating a diet of whole, plant-based foods, the better off we will be.” Some people will be able to consistently get closer than others; hence the four levels of the 4Leaf scale—from 1Leaf to 4Leaf.
Back to Dr. Campbell’s definition, olive oil and fish are not whole plants. They are both high in fat and, in the case of fish, a seafood diet for all 7 billion humans is simply not possible. How can we recommend that everyone in the world consume a diet that the planet is not capable of providing?
Dr. McDougall weighs in (2-25-13 email news message). I believe the reason this New England Journal of Medicine study shows benefits is because the people in the Mediterranean diet group reduced their intake of meat and dairy foods and increased their intake of starches (cereals and legumes), vegetables, and fruits. The inclusion of olive oil and nuts was not a “magic pill” that spared their ailing arteries from forkfuls of bacon and eggs.
However, the reader should consider these findings of this study important because they do show that people can change their diets when instructed to do so and that removing animal foods from the diet is beneficial. But recommending more olive oil, nuts, seeds, and fish is not the message people deserve to hear. They need to know that a truly healthy diet provides the bulk of the calories from traditional starches, like rice, corn, and potatoes. Commercialism needs to be eliminated when life and death issues for you and your family are at stake.
Finally, a 10-minute olive oil segment by Dr. Michael Klaper
Want to find out where you stand on our 4Leaf scale? Take our free 4Leaf Survey. It takes less than five minutes and you can score it yourself. After taking the survey, please give me your feedback as it will be helpful in the development of our future 4Leaf app for smartphones. Send feedback to email@example.com
- Source article. Mediterranean Diet Can Cut Heart Disease, Study Finds – NYTimes.com.
- Later blog. “Just the facts” on the infamous Mediterranean Diet Study includes a powerful 5-minute video.
Handy 4-piece take-charge-of-your-health kit—from Amazon.com
- The movie that’s changing the lives of millions: Forks Over Knives DVD
- Healthy Eating, Healthy World, The “big picture” about food (our book)
- An essential scientific resource: The China Study by Dr. T. Colin Campbell
- Dr. McDougall’s new book, The Starch Solution, with lots of great recipes.
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—J. Morris Hicks, board member, T. Colin Campbell Foundation