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Is there an ideal children's diet based on combining various ethnic foods?

Researchers are studying both children and older adults who eat the Mediterranean diet as to what type of health effects the diet has, such as who's less likely to be overweight on that diet. You have several types of diets that are similar in vegetables and fruits, for example the Pan-Asian vegetarian diet, the non-vegetarian Pan-Asian diet, and the Mediterranean diet, all which include vegetables and fruits.

Is there an ideal children's diet based on combining various ethnic foods?
Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

The non-vegetarian diets of the Mediterranean and Asia also include some seafood, but less meat than vegetables and fruits. Until fast-food eateries started opening in Asia offering lots of diary products, breads, and more red meat, you had different parts of the world eating different foods as staples of their diets.

Experts examined the Mediterranean Diet’s health effects for older adults in new research. The Mediterranean Diet must have been researched hundreds of times in studies. This new study focused on its effects on older adults as to the diet's ability to keep metabolic syndrome at bay as well as other health conditions such as chronic kidney disease, gout, cardiovascular morbidity, and mortality. Focus is on the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of the diet as applied to older adults with high cardiovascular risk.

The study looked at older adults at high cardiovascular risk, which is different from many other studies of the diet that focused on younger, healthy people. According to a study published in the Journals of Gerontology Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences, a baseline adherence to a Mediterranean diet (MeDiet) is associated with a lower risk of hyperuricemia, defined as a serum uric acid (SUA) concentration higher than 7mg/dl in men and higher than 6mg/dl in women. The paper, “Mediterranean Diet and Risk of Hyperuricemia in Elderly Participants at High Cardiovascular Risk” can be accessed at the Oxford Journals site.

The Mediterranean diet consisted of a high consumption of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and moderate amounts of dairy, poultry and wine

Hyperuricemia has been associated with metabolic syndrome, hypertension, type 2 diabetes mellitus, chronic kidney disease, gout, and cardiovascular morbidity and mortality. The MeDiet is characterized by a high consumption of fruits, vegetables, legumes, olive oil, nuts, and whole grain; a moderate consumption of wine, dairy products, and poultry, and a low consumption of red meat, sweet beverages, creams, and pastries. Due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, the MeDiet might play a role in decreasing SUA concentrations, explained an April 18, 2013 news release, "Experts examine Mediterranean diet's health effects for older adults."

Conducted by Marta Guasch-Ferré and 11 others, this study is the first to analyze the relationship between adherence to a MeDiet in older adults and the risk of hyperuricemia. The five-year study looks at 7,447 participants assigned to one of three intervention diets (two MeDiets enriched with extra virgin olive oil or mixed nuts, or a control low-fat diet). Participants were men aged 55 to 80 years and women aged 60 to 80 years who were free of cardiovascular disease but who had either type 2 diabetes mellitus or were at risk of coronary heart disease.

The findings below demonstrate the positive health effects of a MeDiet in older adults:

  • Rates of reversion were higher among hyperuricemic participants at baseline who had greater adherence to the MeDiet.
  • Consuming less than one serving a day of red meat compared with higher intake is associated with 23 percent reduced risk of hyperuricemia.
  • Consuming fish and seafood increased the prevalence of hyperuricemia.
  • Drinking more than seven glasses of wine per week increased the prevalence of hyperuricemia.
  • Consuming legumes and sofrito sauce reduced the prevalence of hyperuricemia.
  • Reversion of hyperuricemia was achieved by adherence to the MeDiet alone, without weight loss or changes to physical activity.

The Journals of Gerontology Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences is a refereed publication of The Gerontological Society of America (GSA), the nation's oldest and largest interdisciplinary organization devoted to research, education, and practice in the field of aging. The principal mission of the Society — and its 5,400+ members — is to advance the study of aging and disseminate information among scientists, decision makers, and the general public. GSA’s structure also includes a policy institute, the National Academy on an Aging Society, and an educational branch, the Association for Gerontology in Higher Education. But the Mediterranean Diet isn't the same as a reversal diet to unclog arteries filled with soft plaque, and it isn't a vegan diet.

Children's weight and the Mediterranean diet

Did you know that more children in Sweden eat a Mediterranean diet compared to children on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus? A recent study of 8 European countries presented at the (2014) European Congress on Obesity (ECO) in Sofia, Bulgaria, shows that children consuming a diet more in line with the rules of the Mediterranean one are 15% less likely to be overweight or obese than those children who do not, according to research recently presented at the ECO2014 | 21st European Congress on Obesity that ran from May 28 to May 31, 2014.

The USA used to hold the title as the world's most obese nation. But now it's a close second, with Mexico in first place, according to the NY Post article, "Mexico beats US to be world's fattest country – but we're still a close second." Yet so many foods found in Mexico are similar to the Mediterranean diet also with lots of tomatoes, onions, peppers, cactus, jicama, bean varieties, and other vegetables, at least as found in vegetarian-friendly Mexican restaurants. Could it be the overuse of tortillas, cakes, pork, lard, white flour, sugar, and candies?

Or is it the frozen desserts? A typical Mediterranean diet dessert is supposed to be fresh fruit such as pomegranates or citrus. But too often Mediterranean islands serve desserts with boiled sugar and water diluted with honey poured over cakes still made with white flour and too many fried donut-like pastries or deep-fried calimari instead of small amounts of grilled seafood and lots of vegetables with fruit for dessert, fruit with no added sugars. Then again, many countries serve a lot of bread and little filling at meals, often to save money.

People in some Mediterranean countries eat less of a native diet

Most people think that children in Cyprus, an island in the palm-tree latitudes surrounded by the Mediterranean sea would be eating lots of fresh vegetables, fruits, walnuts, almonds, pine nuts, olives, legumes, beans, seeds, grape vine leaves wraps instead of cabbage leaves, and seafood. But it's kids in Sweden eating more of what's known as the Mediterranean diet. And it takes food promotions focused on health to popularize Mediterranean diets in Sweden.

That makes people think of Sweden importing foods that won't grow there and lots of trade in groceries and produce. What's not considered a Mediterranean diet are meals heavy on the butter, cream, and cheese (dairy products) and lots of red meat. But herring also is popular in Sweden. Then again, in some Mediterranean areas most popular are different types of ice cream varieties, and fast-food eateries have opened in most of European countries, where people are eating more dairy products. You have some Mediterranean countries where some people routinely use the less costly corn oil for cooking and export the best of their olive oil to other countries.

You may wish to check out the article, "12 Things You Shouldn't Be Cooking With Olive Oil." In the U.S., sales of olive oil surpassed corn oil in the ’90s, and they have increased in the last decade by more than 350%, according to that article.

The research on child obesity and diets is by Dr Gianluca Tognon, University of Gothenburg, Gothenburg, Sweden, and colleagues across the 8 countries: Sweden, Germany, Spain, Italy, Cyprus, Belgium, Estonia and Hungary.

The researchers used data from the IDEFICS study (Idefics study | Identification and prevention of Dietary and lifestyle induced health effects in children and infants), funded by the European Commission. Weight, height, waist circumference, and percent body fat mass were measured in children from these eight countries.

Vegetables, fruit, nuts and fish

The parents of these children were interviewed by means of a questionnaire specifically designed for the IDEFICS study and enquiring about the consumption frequency of 43 foods. Additional dietary data have been complemented by a telephone interview performed on a sub-sample of parents.

The adherence to a Mediterranean-like diet was assessed by a score calculating by giving one point for high intakes of each food group which was considered typical of the Mediterranean diet (vegetables, fruit and nuts, fish and cereal grains), as well as one point for low intakes of foods untypical of the Mediterranean diet (such as dairy and meat products). High scoring children were then considered high-adherent and compared to the others.

Swedish children most Mediterranean

Interestingly, the prevalence of high adherence to a Mediterranean-like diet was found to be independent of the geographical distribution, with the Swedish children scoring the highest (followed by the Italians) and the children from Cyprus scoring the lowest.

The team found that children with a high adherence to a Mediterranean-like diet were 15% less likely to be overweight or obese than low-adherent children. The findings were independent of age, sex, socioeconomic status or country of residence.

The children with high adherence at baseline were 10-15% less likely to be among those who went through major increases in BMI, waist circumference and body fat

“The promotion of a Mediterranean dietary pattern is no longer a feature of Mediterranean countries. Considering its potential beneficial effects on obesity prevention, this dietary pattern should be part of EU obesity prevention strategies and its promotion should be particularly intense in those countries where low levels of adherence are detected.” says Gianluca Tognon, researcher at the Sahlgrenska Academy, according to the June 10, 2014 news release, "Children consuming a Mediterranean diet are 15 percent less likely to be overweight."