For a class assignment, I was required to attend a professional conference and write a report. This past weekend, October 7-9, 2010, the American College of Nutrition held it’s 51st Annual Meeting, “Advances in Clinical Nutrition” at the NY Academy of Medicine in New York City. Attending professional conferences such as this can provide great insight into the recent developements in nutritional research, however they can cost a lot of money. Luckily, I was able to work with the meeting coordinator and volunteer to avoid paying.
I sat in on Symposium IV of the meeting, entitled “Dietary Patterns and Health Outcomes: Current State of the Science”. While I won’t bore you with the details, the take-home message was the health benefits associated with consuming a Mediterranean Diet. This is diet pattern has certainly gained a lot of media attention, but the concensus is that most people don’t know what makes up a “Mediterranean Diet”. And the truth is, it varies based on what culture you look at. For example, Greeks focus on a higher fat content compared to Italians who consume more carbohydrate (pastas!) over fat. A Spanish based Mediterranean diet highlights fish and seafood, for obvious reasons.
However, there are several common threads that make up Mediterranean style meal patterns, including:
- Plant foods (lots of fruits, veggies, legumes, nuts, cereals)
- Focus on fish & poultry
- Less red meat
- Moderate fat intake (primarily from Olive Oil)
- Red Wine (usually with a meal)
When compared with a Western diet pattern (consisting of refined grains, meat, butter, high-fat dairy, etc), there is no doubt that Mediterranean Diet patterns have more health benefits. Studies show lower incidence of obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease among those following Mediterranean diet patterns. So go ahead and enjoy that glass of red wine! And as always, all things in moderation! 🙂