The pros and cons of following the Mediterranean diet
A major benefit of the Mediterranean diet is its emphasis on whole, unprocessed foods like fruits, vegetables, legumes, and fish. This is a much healthier diet than a typically American diet full of fast food and other artery-cloggers like cheese, butter, red meat, processed meats, refined flour, sugar, and salt.
A major disadvantage of the Mediterranean diet is that it is too rich in oil. In very small amounts, as we recommended at the Pritikin Longevity Center (no more than 2 teaspoons daily), oils are relatively harmless.
But if Americans start using more, they may never shed excess weight, as was the case with the individuals in the newly published Mediterranean diet study. For five years they followed the Mediterranean diet, and for five years their weight remained the same.
It’s really no surprise. Oil is the most calorie-dense food on earth. Ounce for ounce, oil has even more calories than butter or bacon. By the pound, butter and bacon each tally up 3,200 calories. Olive oil and all other oils pack in more than 4,000 calories per pound.
Too much oil and other refined fats will likely add, not subtract, to our already plump waistlines, heightening the risk of all sorts of devastating diseases, including this country’s #1 killer: heart disease.
The Mediterranean diet, rich in oil and nuts (another calorie-dense food), is best suited for very active people who are close to their ideal weight. (How many Americans are very active and close to their ideal weight?)
There is also considerable science to suggest that the much-promoted message that “olive oil is heart healthy” is questionable at best.
Several studies have poked holes in olive oil’s heart–health claims. For example, when researchers from the University of Crete compared residents of Crete who had heart disease with residents free of the disease, they found that the residents with heart disease ate a diet with “significantly higher daily intakes” of monounsaturated fats (principally from olive oil) as well as higher fat intake overall.*