The very 'un-American' Mediterranean diet

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A recent study confirms the benefits of the “Mediterranean diet.” Long considered the paragon of healthy eating, the diet has been linked to reduced incidence of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, and death from other illnesses.

While not shocking, the study results are encouraging. But there is one problem: The diet bears little resemblance to the everyday eating habits of most Americans.

Let’s be honest. While those culinary sophisticates by the Mediterranean are accustomed to a diet rich in olive oil, fruits and pastas, we Americans thrive on our triple patties from Steak ‘n Shake (which I love). We also enjoy grease—and not the stuff derived from olive oil—as well as complex carbohydrates—that are simply bad for you.

(To whit: There is no official definition of the Mediterranean diet, according to study authors. It connotes a daily dietary intake of fruits, vegetables, olive oil, cheese, bread and yogurt, with weekly amounts of fish, poultry, and red wine, and sporadic consumption of meat. For more on the diet and the study, I suggest reading Dr. Steve Parker's blog. See it at

Meanwhile, just look at our health record to see that we are not healthy. Alzheimer’s cases in the United States continue to soar and Parkinson’s, heart disease, diabetes are more prevalent than ever among our aging population.

We clearly need to change our gluttonous ways. So quoi faire? I don’t think the answer is to mimic our bons vivants on the other side of the Atlantic. Let’s face it: We’ll never be Europeans. We can individually try to use more olive oil, eat more yogurt and less meat. But do you really think the American diet is likely to change?

So here’s another idea: Modify the 21st century American diet—eat less fast food, more home-cooked meals, and fewer artificial, processed foods.

I’m not a nutritionist, but I know we don’t have to alter our ingrained taste buds—just our bad habits. I think we can all drink to that—just make it red wine, of course.

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Daily Editors' Notes

McKnight's Daily Editors' Notes features commentary on the latest in long-term care news and issues. Entries are written by Editorial Director John O'Connor, Editor James M. Berklan, Senior Editor Elizabeth Newman and Staff Writer Marty Stempniak.