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Which is better: the Atkins diet or the Mediterranean Diet?
Tell me Dr. Harlan am I wrong to say that a diet with almost no carbs is unhealthy?

A Mediterranean Diet, Pre-Pregnancy, Helps Prevent Birth Defects
Can a woman's diet in the year before her pregnancy affect her risk of having a child with a birth defect? Recently published research found a significant link (Arch Ped Adol Med 2011: DOI:10.1001/archpediatrics.2011.185).

The Mediterranean Diet Guide
I was giving a talk to a group of physicians the other day when one asked if I had any simple handouts about the Mediterranean diet. I mentioned that there were a lot of handouts in the "For Physicians" section on the Web site.


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If You Needed Any More Evidence: More on the Mediterranean Diet

News and articles about the Mediterranean Diet are everywhere nowadays, and a whole section of the website is devoted to this style of eating. For those who might not have been paying attention, the Mediterranean Diet is based on the pattern of eating seen in the countries around the Mediterranean Sea. It has nine components: vegetables and fruits, legumes (beans), nuts and whole grains, is high in fish but low in other meats, uses monounsaturated fats like olive oil for cooking, is sparing with dairy products, and includes alcohol in moderation.

Researchers in Italy recently pooled the results of 12 previously-performed studies of the effects of the Mediterranean Diet on people's overall health (BMJ 2008; 337:a1344). These studies included, in total, over 1.5 million people and each study lasted between three and 18 years.

Generally speaking, the participants in each study were given a score between 0 and 9, ranking their usual diet against the nine elements of the Mediterranean Diet. Those with a score of 7-9 were considered to have a high adherence to the Mediterranean style of eating, while those with scores of 0 and 1 were considered to not be following that style of eating very well at all.

The researchers looked at the incidence of several diseases and conditions in those with a low score in adherence to the Mediterranean Diet and compared that to those with a high score. Overall, they found that compared with those with a low score, those study participants with a high score had a 6% lower risk of cancer, a 9% lower risk of heart disease, and a 13% lower risk of Alzheimer's Disease. This was true even after taking into account all of these conditions' risk factors: age, gender, smoking status, and so forth.

What this means for you

Simple as that. It's easy to improve your own adherence to the Mediterranean Diet. Have beef just once or twice a month and try some fish dishes instead. Eat nuts for a snack instead of chips from the vending machine. Visit the Mediterranean Diet section at for more ideas.

First posted: November 19, 2008