Top health experts are urging Brits to eat more like our Mediterranean cousins, as a diet rich in fish, fruit, veg and olive oil could help prevent a string of major diseases.
Lisa Salmon reports Mediterranean-style eating has long been thought of as healthy, but now even mainstream medics are singing its praises - and advising that people in the UK take heed.
There’s mounting evidence to suggest that a diet full of fresh fruit, vegetables, fish, beans, wholegrains, nuts and olive oil - all key characteristics of Mediterranean cuisine - could make a significant difference in reducing the risk of illnesses like heart disease, cancer, diabetes and dementia.
Just recently, leading UK doctors collectively wrote to Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, urging that the Mediterranean diet is given much more priority in the UK.
Sent just before December’s G8 summit on dementia, the letter pointed out that a Mediterranean diet is “possibly the best strategy currently available for tackling dementia”, and stressed that a large body of evidence demonstrates its effectiveness in preventing other chronic diseases too.
The thinking is that, rather than waiting until health problems arise and then seeking medicines, Brits need to be encouraged to prevent illness more, with eating well being a key component.
Cambridge GP Dr Simon Poole, one of the organisers of the letter, says: “With Alzheimer’s cases expected to rise threefold over the next 30 years, and diet and lifestyle clearly dramatically reducing the risk of developing dementia, we feel there’s compelling evidence for more investment in education and health promotion around healthy diet and lifestyle.”
Dr Poole, who runs a non-commercial website (www.tasteofthemed.com) to promote the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet and also imports extra virgin olive oil to the UK, explains that the benefits of the diet are linked to it being ‘high protection/low damage’.
This means it contains relatively small quantities of undesirable saturated fats, but high amounts of vitamin, mineral and antioxidant-packed fruits, vegetables, olive oil and fish oils.