Achieve Nutrient Adequacy by Following the Mediterranean Diet

Dependence on dietary supplements increases when diets fail to supply sufficient amounts of nutrients. Findings of a recent study published in the journal Nutrients reveals that inadequate nutrient intake stems from foods consumed in the Western diet. The authors stated that as more people replace their traditional diets with the low nutrient-dense Western diet, their needs for essential nutrients are not met. It is, therefore, not surprising that dietary supplements worth $96 billion were bought globally in 2012, with numbers estimated to increase to $104 billion in 2013, according to The Nutrition Business Journal.

In contrast, the authors of the article, “The Mediterranean Diet and Nutritional Adequacy: A Review,” reported that adequate nutrient needs can be achieved by adhering to the Mediterranean diet. The results, published earlier this year, are based on literature reviewed from MEDLINE (National Library of Medicine, Bethesda, MD, USA) spanning a 13 year period starting from 2000 through 2013.

The Mediterranean diet, rich in olive oil, fruits, vegetables, fish, poultry, low-fat dairy and legumes is very different from the Western diet, which mainly consists of fast foods, soft drinks, red meat, processed meat, precooked foods, potatoes, eggs, sauces, sweets, and whole dairy. The study reports that iodine, vitamin E, magnesium, iron, vitamin A, selenium, vitamin C and folic acid were some of the essential nutrients lacking in subjects who regularly consumed the Western diet.

On the other hand, subjects who strictly followed the Mediterranean diet were more likely to meet their needs for all nutrients from their diet. This included sufficient intake of folic acid; vitamins A, B1, C and E; as well as minerals such as zinc, iodine, magnesium, iron and selenium. Consumption of the Mediterranean diet also increased intake of monounsaturated fatty acids but decreased energy intake from total and saturated fats. Although the amount of carbohydrates consumed by these subjects was low, their intake of fiber was high.

The trend of meeting nutrient needs was also observed in children between the ages of 6 to 14 who followed the Mediterranean diet. This included daily consumption of olive oil, fruits, vegetables, cheese or yogurt; cereal or grain-based and milk or other dairy product for breakfast.

In addition, adherence to the Mediterranean diet included intake of pasta or rice at least five times a week; fish and nuts 2 to 3 times a week and legumes once a week. The study reports that as compliance to the Mediterranean diet increased so did their intake of fiber, calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium and all vitamins except vitamin E.

The authors also found that the positive effects of the Mediterranean diet are reflected in increased plasma concentration of beta-carotene, folates, vitamin C, alpha-tocopherol and HDL cholesterol or good cholesterol.

Although the authors acknowledge that there were limitations to the study, it is clear that the Mediterranean diet enhances nutritional adequacy and may decrease dependence on dietary supplements. Additionally, the Mediterranean diet provides better dietary fat in the form of olive oil; has anti-inflammatory properties; and increases intake of antioxidants that are beneficial to health.

By SUKHSATEJ BATRA on February 20, 2014

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