The new English diet craze vs. the Mediterranean diet craze


It's always fun when themes develop in the food press because they can provide such interesting contrasts. For example, a few days ago, there was a lot of fuss about a new Spanish study, published in The New England Journal of Medicine, that claimed the Mediterranean Diet dramatically decreases the chance of heart disease. Lost in the clamor, however, were a few qualifications. As outlined by Fooducate in 3 Things to Know About the New Mediterranean Diet Study,  these were:

  • The study was specifically conducted on older people (aged 55-80) who were at high risk for cardiovascular disease. If you are at a low risk, or are younger, results may be different.
  • The study was conducted on people who live in a Mediterranean country. Can we say that the same study conducted in the US would have had the same result?
  • The control group used in the study consumed a low fat diet, not a regular diet that most Spaniards ages 55-80 are used to. Maybe it's the low fat diet that increased the chances of heart disease?

That's not to say we don't think following the Mediterranean Diet, as everyone has understood it for years, is actually quite reasonable. Simply put, this means:

  • less red meat, more fish
  • less saturated fats, more healthy fats from nuts and olive oil
  • more vegetables and fruits
  • red wine

The British, however, are crazy about a very different approach. According to the New York Times, a best-selling diet book has "sent the British into a feeding frenzy." In England Develops a Voracious Appetite for a New Diet, they describe a new diet fad that advocates a formula of eating anything you want for five days, and then fasting for two (fasting meaning a 500-calorie day). Apparently men particularly like this diet, for its ease, and it's also getting some famous food fans, such as Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.

We should note, however that just like Fooducate, there are caveats, in this case from The National Health Service "'Despite its increasing popularity, there is a great deal of uncertainty about I.F. (intermittent fasting) with significant gaps in the evidence.'  The health agency also listed some side effects, including  bad breath, anxiety, dehydration, and irritability." And they go on to note a complete lack of any research validating this approach.

Personally, we'd choose the Mediterranean approach. Unlike the British approach that sounds like an eating style that can last a lifestyle (especially given the red wine).

Photo courtesy of Fooducate




  • wester  on  3/4/2013 at 3:35 PM

    Actually, in this study, both groups had the same recommendations for fruits and vegetables, so there is no difference between the studied diets in this respect. And while it is certainly possible that a low-fat diet could increase heart disease, it is not exactly an expected outcome. After all, we have been told to eat a low-fat diet to DEcrease heart disease since the eighties. And intermittent fasting and a Mediterranean diet can be combined. It's called paleo.

  • wester  on  3/4/2013 at 3:46 PM

    Sorry, too hasty. Of course paleo is not like Mediterranean in at least one other very important respect: no grains.

  • sir_ken_g  on  3/5/2013 at 12:28 PM

    I. F. sounds like a another fad diet that will kill people.

  • Carole Hodson  on  3/19/2013 at 6:59 PM

    Fasting in one form or another has been around for a very long time, so I don,t think it can be called a fad. The problems occur when people take thing to extremes or twist the information and advice given to suit their own desires. I read on FB that someone planned to do 48 hrs and wanted to see how long they could go without food, Dr Moseley, a proponent of this diet, in no way suggests that going this long without food is desirable or necessary to lose weight and support a long and healthy life. There are always idiots around. Use common sense and listen to your body is a better way forward if trying something different I suspect.

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