Olive oil and salad combined ‘explain’ Med diet success


The combination of olive oil and leafy salad or vegetables is what gives the Mediterranean diet its healthy edge, say scientists.

When these two food groups come together they form nitro fatty acids which lower blood pressure, they told PNAS journal.

The unsaturated fat in olive oil joins forces with the nitrite in the vegetables, the study of mice suggests.

Nuts and avocados along with vegetables should work too, they say.

Inspired by traditional cuisine of countries such as Greece, Spain and Italy, the Mediterranean diet has long been associated with good health and fit hearts.

Typically, it consists of an abundance of vegetables, fresh fruit, wholegrain cereals, olive oil and nuts, as well as poultry and fish, rather than lots of red meat and butter or animal fats.

While each component of the Mediterranean diet has obvious nutritional benefits, researchers have been puzzled about what precisely makes the diet as a whole so healthy.

Chemical reaction

Prof Philip Eaton, from King's College London, and colleagues from the University of California in the US believe it is the fusion of the diet's ingredients that make nitro fatty acids.

In their study, part-funded by the British Heart Foundation, the researchers used genetically engineered mice to see what impact nitro fatty acids had on the body.

Nitro fatty acids helped lower blood pressure by blocking an enzyme called epoxide hydrolase.

Written By: Michelle Roberts
continue to source article at bbc.com


  1. In reply to #1 by A3Kr0n:

    Sorry, but I don’t believe any food articles anymore, even if they’re true.

    Yes and it’s a shame really. Part of the damage has been done by pseudo-scientific quacks like “Dr” William Davis (wheat is bad for you). And the other part by food industry propagandists who tell you things like “butter good, soy bad”. Next, the miracle diet crowd, the “never eat this food again” types who invade your PC screen with their asinine ads. And let’s not forget the conspiracy theorists and “naturalist” advocates who paint all GMO’s as inherently bad.

    So who could blame people for being confused?… These “I’ll say anything to make a buck” types have corrupted the field of nutrition (which is supposed to be science based) and effectively turned it into the Tower of Babel.

    Meanwhile, children are getting more and more obese. More and more people are getting Type II diabetes and the statistics show that if the tendency is maintained, the US is going to end up with a national health epidemic by 2050.

  2. Prof Philip Eaton, from King’s College London, and colleagues from the University of California in the US believe it is the fusion of the diet’s ingredients that make nitro fatty acids.

    So no data to support, eh?

  3. And in other news, water is wet.

    This is old news. Here’s what people need to know. Excess sugar (in any form) is bad. Natural, processed, it doesn’t matter. Excess sugar and high fat is even worse because the sugar primes the body for fat deposition by the stimulation (via insulin) of the enzyme Fatty Acid Synthase (which increases fat storage) spurring fatty acid synthesis and a glucose conversion process involving the Kreb’s Cycle. When there is an excess of energy (calories) fatty acid synthesis (via acetyl CoA ) begins the conversion of extra energy into triglycerides, which are then stored in existing fat cells. When this happens repeatedly those fat cells grow and so do we, in a bad way.

    That said, nearly any diet “works” (‘work’ in this context connoting a loss of excess weight) if applied properly. Health is another thing entirely. The study noted suggests that mice really benefit from a Mediterranean Diet. Humans may too. But I’ll have to see a bit more research before the nitro fatty acid connection gains enough relevance. Most reasonably sensible diets are “healthy”. If we’ve learned anything nutritionally thus far it’s that there are no magic bullets. A sensible diet, exercise, and conservative supplementation as needed to fill in gaps (vit D, fish oil) are all anyone really needs.

  4. In reply to #4 by jimaido:

    So no data to support, eh?

    I thought it was farily well established that people in the Mediterranian area life longer and healthier, (on average). Am I wrong?

  5. I suspect that this is not the case.

    Some there is some data involving some people in some Mediterranean areas were at one time, possibly immediate post-WW2 era during severe food shortages and rationing, and pre McDonalds and prior to the domination of the nutrition research industry by young US-based experts. Pre-WW2 much nutrition science was handled by Germans & Austrians, same as for macroeconomics, in local languages and not translated, perhaps even today. Went out of fashion owing to Naziphobia, anti-semitism, lack of postwar employment for these kinds of scientists, and that it wasn’t rocket science. (The present day consequences of this episode in history were even worse for economics than for nutrition.)

    I think this might be better explained by a general food shortage in many places, which sometimes turns out to have an upside for various chronic diseases.

    The other aspect is known as the French Paradox, but applies equally in many other traditional communities. The idea is that these people consume substantial amounts of dietary fats and oils but suffer less from heart disease – the key idea being that this is despite how much stuff like saturated fats and alcohol they consume. But overall mortality may be unaffected, just that heart disease rates are is apparently lower.

    The key assumption being that everyone knows that dietary fats cause heart disease. i.e. It’s got nothing to do with consuming massive amounts of dietary sugars and starches that cause chronic glycation damage to arterial linings and consequent chronic inflammation resulting in unstable atherosclerosis. Turns out that traditional Mediterranean diets don’t feature huge amounts of sugars and starches. Something that’s generally regarded as irrelevant because everyone already knows that people would die if not for huge amounts of dietary starch, the brain only works on glucose etc. The need for evidence for these assumptions is trumped by established certain knowledge taught to nutrition scientists, presumably when they were babies.

    The other factor is that the stats on diseases and cause of death may be dodgy. Many traditional cultures believe that the heart is the source of admirable personal attributes. It can be socially embarrassing to record heart failure. Death stats are often determined by local physicians with a view to cultural considerations of the surviving family members. This happened in Japan and was very misleading to nutritionists for many decades, possibly continuing today. i.e. Why is eating so much rice so good for one’s health. Evidence being that the Japanese had low rates of heart attack deaths. (Nevertheless they still die at the usual rate, perhaps excepting the Okinawans – who never eat sugar apparently. But best to blame it on the fish oil – it’s easier to get money for selling fish oil than for telling people not to eat sugar.)

    In reply to #6 by old-toy-boy:

    In reply to #4 by jimaido:

    So no data to support, eh?

    I thought it was farily well established that people in the Mediterranian area life longer and healthier, (on average). Am I wrong?

  6. Actually, I’ve been looking into the Mediterranean Diet and it seems as if it is one of the most healthiest diet around. If you look it up, it seems pretty common sense – lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, with less meats like chicken and more fish.

    I’m starting to realize more and more that sugar is a core problem.

    It’s got nothing to do with consuming massive amounts of dietary sugars and starches that cause chronic glycation damage to arterial linings and consequent chronic inflammation resulting in unstable atherosclerosis. Turns out that traditional Mediterranean diets don’t feature huge amounts of sugars and starches.

    I wonder if sugar can be as damaging as say smoking…

  7. In reply to #8 by QuestioningKat:

    I think you’re right. I’ve been looking into this for years now. So much research just doesn’t make sense except in the context of human evolution and with sugar being the real problem. Possibly worse than tobacco.

    There’s now a long list of ingested compounds that decompose to glycating molecules which go on to change the mechanical properties of proteins (e.g. make arteries inflexible, stiffen the lens of eyes, the cartilage of knees, make skin go wrinkly, leathery, and spotty, and erode spinal disks) and which also interfere with and impede or clog up the operation of functional proteins. (E.g. disable enzymes involved in energy metabolism, cellular rejuvenation, DNA gene expression and maintenance etc.)

    Nicotine is known to cause glycation. Possibly much more than glucose. Fructose is also much more harmful than glucose, but you can’t normally consume too much fructose by eating fruit normally. You have to drink the industrially extracted concentrated juice to overdose – or consume sucrose, which is half glucose and half fructose. Alcohol also generates glycating compounds.

    Glucose is relatively mild on a volume basis. But glycation is named after glucose because most glycation is caused by glucose simply because that’s the glycating molecule that’s mostly in the blood for the longest time. Except for the case of smokers and drinkers – of both the hard and soft drink varieties – who also have nicotine, fructose, and alcohol metabolites to contend with.

    The liver quickly processes fructose – perhaps because it is so toxic. And alcohol is the priority energy food when it’s in the blood – because the body wants to eliminate this acute toxin urgently. So these things, being normally found even in ancestral human diets, might actually be less harmful than nicotine.

    Glucose is more of a chronic than acute toxin, but mostly for those who can’t easily control their blood sugar level. E.g. diabetics, the insulin resistant, the sedentary (who don’t exercise and so don’t deplete glycogen often – leaving nowhere for the glucose to go), people who eat way too much starch and don’t exercise, and people who don’t tend to get fat very easily (who have heart attacks and strokes instead, because their bodies aren’t so good at taking the glucose out of the blood and stashing it away safely as adipose storage).

    Cumulative glycation damage to proteins, structural or functional, can easily exceed the body’s natural ability to mitigate. This mitigating capability is similar to the capability of human bodies to synthesise amino acids. i.e. It’s limited owing to natural selection allowing the loss of functions that aren’t essential. Humans obtain many amino acids for free via our normal (ancestral) scavenging diets. We probably didn’t consume horrendous amounts of glycating molecules in those normal (ancestral) diets. So we have lost glycation mitigating capabilities to the extent that they are unnecessary owing to our ancestral diets. (Which is the idea behind the Paleo diet – pretty much the same thing as the Meditteranean diet.)

    Animals like cattle have evolved to consume huge amounts of glycating molecules, but evolution has allowed them to retain the genes that express the enzymes that mitigate the accumulating AGEs and therefore allow them to live for up to 20 or 30 years. Though they tend to die before they qualify for heart disease and alzheimers, Just like the lab mice that only live for a couple of years. Humans can do the same, and live for up to several decades by eating cattle feed, but only just. To live for 80 to 100 years without any health problems requires avoiding as much cattle feed as possible. i.e. Any kind of food that is essentially a grass.

    Anything you eat that isn’t grass effectively displaces at least some grass from the diet. E.g. Wholegrains (grass seeds) are basically indigestible and pass through the gut. Kind of like coating little balls of starch and sugar in digestion resistant plastic. It’s essentially just a ridiculous way of just eating less bread. Though it does improve the texture. Fibre is the same – if it can’t be digested then it doesn’t do any harm, plus it displaces by volume at least some of what is doing harm. Hence the health ‘benefits’ of fibre. (Actually the lack of health non-benefits from whatever it is that eating the fibre has displaced. Same applies to the benefits of red wine consumption.)

    Exercise has a similar value: if you exercise regularly you will burn off some glycogen which allows recently absorbed blood glucose to be safely sequestered as glycogen. (Assuming you’re not already insulin resistant and therefore too low in energy reserves to be bothered).

  8. developed the habit of dining on fresh green salad with olive oil as dressing because I like the taste, and I noticed that my cholesterol has been controlled, since then, even without exercises anymore, this article just confirmed that I chose the right diet, and perhaps am lucky to have friends who are supportive of my preferred food and would ask me to bring the salad during pot luck parties and to recommend places where good salads are served or order ahead for me.

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