We are certainly hearing a lot these days about the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet, and with good reason. There is so much being written how effective this diet is in terms of being associated with reduced risk for a vast panorama of diseases. From diabetes to obesity to coronary artery disease, the foods that constitute this diet are really gaining the attention of scientists and consumers around the world.
When you analyze the Mediterranean diet you learn that it differs from what most Americans seem to be eating in that it’s remarkably lower in added sugars and processed fats. It also includes foods that are nutrient-dense and help boost the amount of fiber a person consumes. As it turns out, the fact that many of the fiber-rich foods that you’ll find on this diet are high in prebiotic fiber may well explain why we’re seeing such health benefits with this way of eating.
Prebiotic fiber is a special type of fiber that, by definition, has health supportive properties that are derived from the effects of the fiber on the healthy probiotic bacteria living within the gut. These bacteria help reduce inflammation – a pivotal mechanism in so many diseases including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and even cancer.
But there’s one more cool thing about the Mediterranean diet that bears attention: it fundamentally supplies higher levels of good, healthy fat. The sort of fat that’s good for the body and critical for the brain.
In fact, in a recent issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association – Internal Medicine, Spanish researchers studied 334 subjects over a 4 year period and compared the rates of brain function decline in participants who were either placed on the Mediterranean diet or on the Mediterranean diet with added fat from either nuts or olive oil.
The results were astounding. Those consuming the diet enriched with even more fat showed remarkably less decline in brain function with the group getting the olive oil having the best results overall. These folks consumed a lot of olive oil – a full liter each week! I’m certain the notion of adding so much fat to the diet may seem perplexing, but the results really speak for themselves and help hammer home the point that we need to reframe our feelings about dietary fat and health.
To be sure, there are plenty of manufactured, modified unhealthy fats that are so common in the American diet, and their relationship to ill health is well established. But the empowering information revealed in this research is that we shouldn’t consider all fats in the same way.