By Advocate Contributors
Originally published on Advocate.com November 18 2009 10:00 AM ET
The Mediterranean diet has been touted as a way to prevent some common problems with heart disease for quite some time. This plan, although originally geared toward a more general population, appears to have some promise for people living with HIV infection too. This is especially important since the risk for cardiovascular disease is higher in HIV-infected patients with changes in fat redistribution.
According to research published in April in the Archives of Internal Medicine, adherence to the Mediterranean diet may improve some of the risk factors for cardiovascular disease, such as lipid profiles (bad cholesterol levels, triglycerides) and insulin resistance in patients who’ve experienced body-fat changes. The study cannot claim that adherence to the Mediterranean diet will always provide the effect the researchers saw of lowering the risk for heart disease in people who have metabolic changes because of chronic HIV infection, use of antiretroviral treatment, or other risk factors, but it does suggest that more research should explore using this type of diet to help in the prevention and treatment of these problems. And it may be worth trying on an individual basis since there are few, if any, downsides.
The Mediterranean diet includes a strong component of physical activity as well as certain food choices. The food choices emphasized are high in fiber and specific unsaturated fats, like olive oils and fish. The foods de-emphasized include red meats. Foods suggested in moderation include dairy products, in the form of cheeses and yogurt, and wine (although this is not recommended in every case).
Fish is recommended at least twice each week to supply valuable omega-3 fatty acids in their most natural form. For the high-fiber component, unprocessed grains and legumes (beans, soy, peas, lentils) are emphasized along with vegetables and fruits, making the summertime bounty of fresh produce look even better!
The great thing about the Mediterranean diet is that it can be tailored to meet additional health needs for such problems as diabetes, liver or kidney disease, and other common problems that complicate HIV disease and treatment.