Back from holiday and it seems fitting to cover The Mediterranean Diet, as we've been indulging in it for the past 8 days – as I have done so for many months during my lifetime.
The Mediterranean diet has been heralded as the role model global diet since Ancel Keys did The Seven Countries Study (Ref 1). Keys studied seven carefully chosen countries (he had data for approximately 20 countries from a 1953 study that he had done (Ref 2), so he knew which countries would best prove his theory of a relationship between cholesterol levels and heart disease. There were 16 cohorts (different regions) studied within the seven countries. The former Yugoslavia, for example, accounted for five cohorts; Italy had three; Finland, Greece and Japan each had two regions reviewed and The Netherlands and the USA had just one.
As I report fully in The Obesity Epidemic (2010), some cohorts seemed to support Keys' hypothesis - two Italian cohorts had lower than average (for the study) cholesterol levels and lower than average (for the study) Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) deaths. However, the remaining Italian cohort had higher than average cholesterol levels and lower than average deaths. Corfu, as a Greek region, had lower than average cholesterol levels and lower than average CHD deaths, but higher than average CHD deaths as a percentage of total deaths. The other Greek cohort, Crete, had higher than average cholesterol levels and lower than average deaths. Hence, even the Mediterranean countries and cohorts in Keys' study could not consistently support his hypothesis...
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