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"The only fat used for culinary purposes should be extra virgin olive oil"

Carmen Benítez. Journalist @cabeherrero

Wiki Spanish Food.- The PREDIMED study has been under way since 2003 and several conclusions have been presented. Has the most recent segment yielded new information?

Miguel Á. Martínez.- Of course. The new discovery in 2013 is that, for the first time in history, the PREDIMED study has provided proof of the protective role of a dietary pattern in the primary prevention of cardiovascular diseases.  

W.S.F.- What are the final objectives of the study?

M.A.M.- To prove that the risk of cardiovascular disease (heart attack, stroke and cardiac death) declines as a result of a nutritional intervention which promotes the classic Mediterranean diet.

W.S.F.- Do you believe that the people of Spain, the birthplace of the Mediterranean diet, have good eating habits? What aspects can be improved?

M.A.M.- Unfortunately, Spanish society no longer eats a Mediterranean diet. What's worse is that we believe we do, and it's just not true. Many traditional aspects have been lost. For example, Spaniards eat meat in excess, especially red meat (beef, pork, lamb) and processed meats (cold cuts, sausages, hamburgers). The custom of always eating fresh fruit for dessert has also been lost in many places. It has become increasingly common to eat sweet high-calorie desserts. Consumption of industrial baked goods has also expanded. People eat fast food more often. They drink excessive amounts of soft drinks and juices, which leads to obesity. Water is the best drink for staying hydrated. As regards alcohol, and especially among young people, there is no custom of drinking wine in moderation; in fact, they tend to drink unlimited quantities of beer and liquor, especially on the weekend. This will have an enormous negative impact on health.

W.S.F.- People tend to know the basics of how the Mediterranean diet affects their health. How important are opinion leaders?

M.A.M.- They are very important. I believe there should be nutritionists at health centers.  That would be extremely positive for health and it would be an investment which would end up saving the healthcare system lots of money.

W.S.F.- What would you recommend as a daily intake of virgin olive oil in line with the PREDIMED study?

M.A.M.- I would make two recommendations. First, that extra virgin olive oil be the only fat used for cooking; it's the best oil for frying. We must debunk the myth that it's not suitable for such purposes. The second is that total consumption—including as a dressing, in cooking and as a spread—should exceed four soup spoons per day.

W.S.F.- Based on the conclusions from the study, do you believe these recommendations will be included on olive oil labels in the future?  

M.A.M.- Yes, I believe these findings will end up being included on packaging.



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