Mediterranean diet secrets revealed

Humans love a good secret, that is why conspiracy theories are so popular. In fact, if you want to make something sell well, just work the word “secret” into its name and watch the sales figures flow. There are numerous examples of this, in fact you could market a new range of toilet paper as having “secret wipe enhancement” (the secret being that there is no secret) and people would embrace it in their droves. Perhaps the real appeal of a secret is that it promises revelation … if something is secret then when we find out what it is the answer will surely be life changing. That is why the secret of the Bermuda Triangle and the secrets of the pyramids provide endless fodder for “documentary” makers. It is not enough that something “is” … we want to know the secret of why it is. If you are among those who highly value a good secret, then this new study will be right up your alley, because it has highlighted a “secret” mechanism behind the capacity of the Mediterranean style diet to reduce your blood pressure.

Unless you have been meditating beneath a large, soundproof and wi-fi-resistant rock for the past two decades, you will have come across the plethora of information out there detailing that a Mediterranean style diet yields a range of healthy outcomes for human beings. The Mediterranean diet is actually more of a way of living than a diet per se. Of course, it originates from countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea and features: eating primarily plant-based foods, such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts; replacing butter with healthy fats, such as olive oil; using herbs and spices instead of salt to flavour foods; limiting red meat to no more than a few times a month; eating fish and poultry at least twice a week; and drinking red wine in moderation. There are many positive health outcomes that arise from eating this way and researchers think they have found the secret to why this kind of diet leads to reductions in blood pressure.

The researchers noted that foods like olive oil, fish, nuts and avocadoes are rich in unsaturated fatty acids. They also observed that foods like lettuce, spinach, celery and carrots are rich in nitrites and nitrates. The researchers found that when you consume these foods together the unsaturated fatty acids and the nitrogen compounds form substances known as nitro fatty acids.

In a series of experiments, the researchers found that these nitro fatty acids block an enzyme called “soluble epoxide hydrolase”. The nitro fatty acids attach to a point on the enzyme that stops a series of reactions and this in turn causes blood vessels to dilate (open up) and that leads to a drop in blood pressure.

If blood pressure is lowered, that reduces the risk of developing cardiovascular problems like heart attack, heart failure and stroke.

None of that makes the Mediterranean diet any healthier than it was before but it does reveal at least one secret of its power, and possibly provide the inspiration for the new bestseller, The Secret Epoxide Busting Diet. At least that’s one cure-all book you won’t have to purchase.

Terry Robson

Terry Robson

Terry Robson is the Editor-in-Chief of WellBeing and the Editor of EatWell.

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