Doctors say a Mediterranean diet is the best way to prevent chronic illness

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© Katherine Martinko

A very refreshing report has just come out of Britain. Eleven senior doctors have presented a strong, new mandate to Prime Minister David Cameron, insisting that it’s time for diet to be placed at the forefront of health policy. Although it was research specifically into the prevention of dementia that led to this conclusion, the doctors agree that the Mediterranean diet can go a long way toward preventing many other chronic illnesses:

“The evidence base for the Mediterranean diet in preventing all of the chronic diseases that are plaguing the Western world is overwhelming,” says Dr. Richard Hoffman, one of the lead authors of the letter to Cameron. Another signatory, Dr. Aseem Malhotra, adds this common-sense statement:

“We are not going to overcome the increasing burden of chronic diseases by prescribing more pills.”

A Mediterranean-style diet is one that’s rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts and olive oil. Fish is eaten at least twice a week, but meat and sugar only once. Moderate consumption of wine is advised. According to this article in the National Post, such a diet reduces the risk of coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and Alzheimers, while improving cognitive function.

It seems a small price to pay for better health – and it truly is. According to a brand new study from the Harvard School of Public Health, Americans can afford to eat a healthy Mediterranean-style diet for only an extra $1.50 a day. While the annual price tag of $550/per person may seem daunting to some families, it’s still much cheaper than the cost of poor health. Dariush Mozaffarian, lead study author and professor at Harvard Medical School, says, “This price difference is very small in comparison to the economic costs of diet-related chronic diseases, which would be dramatically reduced by healthy diets.”

Teaching people how to eat properly is no small task, but it has to start somewhere. The letter urges the government to invest more in educating the public, but I think it has to go further than promotional ads and pep talks. We need hands-on training for people to learn the lost art of cooking, perhaps starting with kids in schools. Knowing what to do with vegetables, grains, and fruits is the first step toward reducing dependency on sugary, fatty processed foods. Eventually we won’t be able to ignore this horrifying fact any longer:

“Poor diet causes more diseases than physical inactivity plus smoking plus alcohol combined.”

Happily, there are few things that some healthy home cooking can’t fix.

Tags: Diet | Fruits & Vegetables | Health