How to Evaluate Evidence Against the Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean diet is among the world’s most popular dietary guidelines. Proponents of the diet suggest that following the eating regimen can help lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of certain types of cancer and heart disease. Research evidence supporting these claims is, however, largely circumstantial.

Mediterranean diet advocates typically cite research studies that have either studied a relatively small number of people or used questionable research methods. Critics of the diet, in turn, point to a lack of high-quality studies as evidence that the claims made by the diet’s proponents are not supported by the evidence. This raises the question: How can you evaluate the evidence against the Mediterranean diet?

Evaluate The General Methodology Of Studies.

The general methodology of studies that investigate the Mediterranean diet is critical to understanding the validity of the evidence. One of the most important factors that influence results is how participants were selected for the studies. To be specific, studies that compare the effects of the Mediterranean diet to a control group will almost certainly show superior results for the former. This superiority might disappear, however, if the participants were not selected carefully enough or if the study did not use an appropriate control group. The general rule is this: The more randomization, the more reliable the results will be. Unfortunately, the majority of studies published on the subject are of poor methodological quality and hence, their results cannot be trusted.

Study Design And Setting

Design and setting are also important factors that determine the quality of a study and hence, the validity of its results. The setting of a study should reflect the habits, culture, and traditions of the people being investigated. The study design, in turn, should be selected carefully to answer the question being asked. If you have a specific question in mind, then select a study that is best positioned to provide you with an answer. Keep in mind that not all descriptive studies are of good quality and hence, not all of them will provide you with valuable information.

Participants’ Characteristics And Dietary History

Another important factor that influences the quality of evidence against the Mediterranean diet is participants’ characteristics and dietary history. It is essential that the participants being studied are comparable to the general population. This means that the participants should be representative of the people for whom the dietary guidance is intended. The studies should also have a good representation of men and women, as well as different races and cultures. This ensures that the results can be generalized to the entire population.

The dietary history of the participants is also crucial. All participants should have a detailed history of what they have and have not eaten in the past. Not having this information could result in some participants being treated like outliers and their results being ignored. This is because food journals, which are kept by participants to register what they eat, seldomly show any irregularities. The only way to know for sure if a participant is lying is by asking them about their dietary history directly. This is why when interpreting the results of a study that compared the effects of a Mediterranean diet to a control group, it is important to assess how credible the results are in light of the participants’ dietary history. Is the control group’s dietary history similar to that of the experimental group? Were both dietary groups vegetarian or vegan? Did both of them avoid particular food groups or certain nutrients in the diet? Answers to these questions can help determine the credibility of the study’s results.

Measurements And Analytical Techniques

In the last decade, diet research has seen a paradigm shift from comparing diets in terms of total calories to comparing diets in terms of their nutrient composition. This is because nutrients play a much more important role in health than calories do. The nutrient profiles of different foods and the various food components (such as fats, carbohydrates, and proteins) are more relevant to determining the overall impact of a diet on health than are the total calories consumed by the participants. This evidence-based approach, which focuses on nutrients and not calories, has led to a considerable upgrade in the quality of studies that investigate the Mediterranean diet.

The measurements that are used to quantify the nutrient composition of a diet should also be of high quality. The type of measurement used, as well as the accuracy and precision of the results, determine the quality of evidence. There are several accepted methods for measuring the nutrient contents of food, and the results of these measurements should be comparable to each other. Moreover, the measurements should be traceable to the nearest significant digit. The same goes for the values that are reported by the studies. Investigators and researchers should strive to achieve the highest degree of accuracy and precision in their measurements and their reporting of the results. This will help ensure that the results of the studies are as accurate as possible and that the evidence supports the claims being made.

Interpret The Results Carefully, And With Caution.

Interpretation of the results of a study that compares the effects of a Mediterranean diet to a control group is complicated. First, you need to understand exactly what the results of the study signify. The study’s authors should clearly state in the report what they mean by a ‘significant’ difference. This depends on the size of the sample being studied. For example, if the study compared the effects of a Mediterranean diet with a vegan diet on blood pressure, then a significant difference might exist if the experimental group’s blood pressure was 16 mmHg lower than that of the control group. This would suggest that people adhering to a vegan diet have better blood pressure than those who follow the Mediterranean diet. This, however, might not be the case if the sample size was not large enough to detect a difference of only four mmHg. In that case, the significance of the difference might be relative. Moreover, the results of the study might not be applicable to the entire population because all of the participants were not of the same ethnic background. This is why it is important to interpret the results with caution and in conjunction with other evidence-based information, such as that provided by studies that compare the effects of the Mediterranean diet to a vegan diet. This other information can help determine whether or not the findings apply to each individual being studied. This form of triaging results is typical of science-based medicine and is an essential skill for a health professional in this day and age.