Want to try the Mediterranean diet? Study finds it works only for rich people

There are countless perks to adopting a Mediterranean diet, including lower risk of cardiovascular disease. But if you’re hoping to make the switch, a new report suggests you’ll need quite a bit of money to reap the health benefits. 

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A group of researchers from the Department of Epidemiology and Prevention conducted a study to determine how socioeconomics can alter the effects of a Mediterranean diet.

To do so, they examined the eating habits of 18,000 people from 2005 to 2010. In addition to monitoring their food intake, they also gathered information such as their physical activity, body mass index, health history, education and household income.

They noted the types of fruits, vegetables and meats the participants consumed, placing them into categories such as organic or not or whole-grain or not. They also recorded the way the meals were prepared, marking them fried, baked, boiled and so on. 

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At the end of the nearly five-year period, there were 5,256 heart disease events. 

After analyzing the all of the data, scientists found that the Mediterranean diet was most beneficial to those with higher incomes or levels of education. 

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Why the disparity?

Researchers believe quality of foods may play a role. 

"We also found that higher-SES [socioeconomic] subjects tend to consume more organic vegetables which can contain higher concentrations of antioxidants, lower concentrations of cadmium and a lower incidence of pesticide residues, as compared with conventionally grown foods,” the study said. “We might then speculate that the quality of the bundle of foods that make up the MD [Mediterranean diet] actually differs across SES.”

They also think the way foods are prepared can change the diet’s effectiveness. 

“For both high-education and high-income individuals, disparities in food preparation were limited to healthier cooking methods for vegetables, which are possibly associated with increased overall antioxidant content,” the study read. 

To close the gap, researchers say more strategies should be in place to reduce socioeconomic imbalances in health. That includes “facilitating access to foods with higher nutritional values likely associated with improved health outcomes.”

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