The Mediterranean Diet is a Whitewashed Fantasy

I suspect this won’t go over well here, but I think this is a really interesting piece:

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It’s the similar fantasy to those who seem to think that Europe is a single homogeneous entity.


“In this way, the MedDiet is not an actual way of eating for any Mediterranean culture(s); it is an idealized eating pattern created using foods that seem to have desirable nutrient profiles. The MedDiet doesn’t exist outside of its construction in scientific literature.”

One could make that point about pretty much any diet.


Certainly, except that the way in which this diet is presented in the public discourse is as something naturally occurring.


The brother in law is from Mallorca, an island which has a rich vein of vegetarian dishes in its cuisine but which rarely appear on restaurant menus, even away from the tourist areas. It was explained to me that these dishes were often developed in times of poverty, when people could not afford meat. So, if you were eating in a restaurant, you were inherently not poor , so would have no wish to eat the vegetarian classics, hence no demand for them to be on menus. No, what you want are fatty salamis, followed by big slabs of meat.


Keto and paleo make similar claims, albeit framing it as the “OG diet” while neglecting the realities of the actual cave person diet.


heh, what happened to the French cheese, high fat & wine diet with barely any heart disease?

I read through about half the citation - for someone who wishes to debunk assumptions, the assumptions asserted as fact by that author are quite stunning… same old same ole, just a different axe to grind.

And also neglecting the realities of the cave person lifestyle, which included gathering/hunting every morsel, no plumbing, no medical care, etc.
Which did NOT include driving to your Crossfit gym in your SUV and chugging protein powders purchased online. :roll_eyes:

I think the high-longevity Blue Zone lifestyles (that go with the diet) also tend to be simpler, less stressful, more socially connected, and more physically active.


I look at European cuisine in a similar manner to the way I look at Indian or Chinese cuisine, that they each have so many variations, from one end to the other, that they are each like a smorgasbord from a multitude of nations.
And Thailand has a similar complexity of dishes that are frequently simply referred to as “Thai”.
To me, Mexico, Canada and the US approach that level of complexity of choices but do not quite get to the Euro/Indian/Chinese/Thai level of variety of dishes and techniques. But that may mean I just have not been paying enough attention.


Why in the world would anyone want to mimic a cave person’s diet.

Those dudes had like a lifespan about as long as a typical housefly (ok, maybe a few years longer but still), had ingrown toenail problems, didn’t cut their hair, bad oral hygiene, dry skin, but, yeah, they had a six-pack of abs.

No thank you.


I beg your pardon, but yes while I don’t cut my hair, my oral and toenail hygiene is just fine!

So there!


Europe actually IS a “multitude of nations.”


Study after study show that there is not one best diet except the best diet is the one that helps you lose weight. The statement that diet only affects health is thru weight loss is pretty close to accurate. Diabetes risk/harm and heart risk will plummet if you lose 20% of your body weight, weather from a keto diet, or a whole grain, veggie/fruit centric with 40% or more fat, or the same with 30% fat. By the way, the latter two are variants of the so-called Mediterranean diet. I prefer to describe my diet by the goals and nature of it, and not really care about where it comes from.

We know from recent DNA evidence from ‘caveman’ dental plaques that 20,000 years ago, the population apparently ate whole grains. Not farmed but gathered. So much for the Paleo diet having anything to do with what we were actually eating 20,000 years ago. But you can lose weight on a so-called paleo diet, which is a high-fat, very low-carb diet. But even in a high-fat, very low-carb diet, the question of saturated fats is still not fully understood. Trans fats are still out for cardio risk.

One of the first lessons my endocrinologist taught when I was diagnosed with Diabetes is that everyone’s disease is different. Things that work for many may not work for you. And many years later, now that I am wearing a continuous glucose monitor, I am finding out in much greater detail how things work for me. And by making a few small edits to my diet, get better results. And by small, it was things like reducing my portion of oats from 1/2 cup to 1/3 cup for breakfast.

This is one of my favorite sources on diet and outcomes on YouTube. What I like is he shares the studies and shows their strengths and weaknesses. One study proves nothing. And the current media attention of meta-studies is really making me angry given my background is statistics and probability. Dr Carvelho does a good job explaining cofounders and limitations that might be driving the headline result we hear about.

Nutrition Made Simple channel on YouTube


LOL! Yeah, I blew it with that one.

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Otzii the Iceman was in his mid-40s and died of injuries. His diet does not look like it waspretty decent. He recovered from many wounds on it.

My relatives who live in the Mediterranean are not fat and relatively unfit like those in my family (I’m part of the fat and relatively unfit group) who live in North America.

The Greek island approach does work, if people are willing to follow the fasts, eat horta with every meal, limit their meat intake.

Interestingly, my elderly relatives in Eastern Germany are fit and lean, and use a bike to get around into their 80s. The Silent Generation learned moderation (through Hard Times) in a way that Boomers, GenX and the younger generations have not.

It’s when one North Americanizes the Mediterranean diet that it stops working its wonder.

Could use a coastal Japanese diet for the same type of effect.


All that you detailed: moderate and fresh diet (coastal is good), active lifestyle, and mutually beneficial social connections etc. are what have been observed in the so-called Blue Zones: where people have longevity with good health. These include Okinawa, Japan; Sardinia, Italy; Nicoya, Costa Rica; Ikaria, Greece; and Loma Linda, California (where 7th Day Adventists live).
We should all be so lucky.


There’s a difference between eating a “Mediterranean Diet” and eating the “diet of Mediterraneans”

The two are not the same, despite what some lazy journalist for Interweebs would like you to believe.

The former is an approach to food where one focuses on certain food groups like whole grains, vegetables, fatty seafoods, wine, etc. and avoid processed or overly processed foods; while the latter is simply an attempted descriptive catchall term for what people who live in the Mediterranean area (e.g. biogeographical region that includes parts of France, Portugal, Italy, Spain and Greece, Malta, and Cyprus.) eat.

It’s like Chinese food (or at least how that term is used in pop culture) is not necessarily synonymous with food people in China eat, which oftentimes has nothing to do with what hoi polloi associate with “Chinese food”


Your observations are sort of what the Blue Zones diet author says. There isn’t one magical diet but there are common patterns found in communities with healthy old folks


There were also some dietary studies of Mormons in the 80s or 90s, showing they had better dietary outcomes than your average North American.

The 3 Mormon guys in my class 20 years ago (inland, in Alberta, Canada) were by far the healthiest living of all the students, daily exercisers who ate mostly homemade food made by their wives. They were all fairly strict and their church paid for their tuition. They didn’t drink alcohol or caffeine. I don’t even remember them drinking uncaffeinated soda like ginger ale. One of them decided to go drinking with office mates, and stayed at the office overnight rather than go home to his wife to say what he had been up to. He left the Church the following year.