The Mediterranean diet: trulli life-affirming?

Posted by Jonathan Broom on 30 December 2018
Related property: Coreggia
The Mediterranean diet: trulli life-affirming?

Perhaps it’s the time of year; but after a week (or more) of eating and drinking to excess – and all the wrong things, to boot – shifting to a Mediterranean diet (at top) is looking ever more attractive: punchy flavours, a treat for the eyes (as well as the tummy), and altogether life-enhancing.

“Mediterranean”, in this context, is a bit of a misnomer – cuisines rich in pulses, fish and fresh vegetables (and little by way of red meat) can be found (with regional variations) all across seaside Southern Europe, from the Algarve, to the Costa Blanca and Costa del Sol, to Majorca and the other Balearic Islands, to Turkey, and even as far west as Madeira, and La Gomera and Lanzarote in the Canaries. And the waters that lap these sun-drenched paradises are not, strictly speaking, the Med. Nonetheless, the name has stuck.

And Puglia, Southern Italy – where you’ll find the trulli of Coreggia and Alberobello (above) – can lay claim to being more Mediterranean than most. Actually, the heel of the Italian boot is bordered by the Adriatic Sea to the north-east and the Ionian Sea to the south; but the expanse of the Med lies not very far below the latter.

We all know the advantages of southern Europe’s dietary regimen – and the comparative longevity of southern European folk is surely evidence enough that it works. But adding grist to the mill come results from a recent study carried out by researchers from the Mediterranean Neurological Institute in (appropriately enough) Pozzilli, Italy showing that statins, cholesterol-reducing medicines, are more effective when combined with a Mediterranean diet.

Here’s the serious bit. The researchers found that, for people suffering heart attacks or strokes, eating lots of vegetables, fruit, legumes and other Mediterranean ingredients increased the effectiveness of statins in preventing death from cardiovascular diseases. “It seems likely that a Mediterranean diet facilitated the beneficial effect of statins,” said the Institute’s Marialaura Bonaccio.

“The favourable combination of statins and the Mediterranean diet appeared to act by reducing inflammation,” added her colleague Professor Giovanni de Gaetano, “a condition that predisposes to a higher risk of illness and mortality, rather than on cholesterol levels. Our data suggest that we should focus more on the possible interactions between food and drugs [rather than taking an ‘either/or’ approach].”

This latest research is, of course, good news for anyone suffering from cardiovascular ailments; but surely it’s equally welcome for those of us who just want to eat a bit more healthily. And while all the elements that make up a Mediterranean diet are readily available in Britain, food like this is best enjoyed close to the source.

A light, bright dish of pasta with pesto – all olive oil, pine kernels, basil and parmesan cheese – would go down very well right now, on a grey British afternoon in late December. But even better in a few months’ time, under the welcome shade of an olive tree, its fruit ripening under the glorious Southern Italian summer sun.

Jonathan Broom

Jonathan Broom

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