Natural Foods Merchandiser

Polymeal: Satire or serious science?

By creating a diet that included wine, fish, dark chocolate, fruits and vegetables, garlic, and almonds, men and women could increase both longevity and quality of life, researchers from the Netherlands? Erasmus University Medical Centre and Monash University in Victoria, B.C., Canada, reported recently. What?s not known is whether their article was intended to be satirical. Nonetheless, the diet?s similarity to the Mediterranean diet lends it some validity.

Dubbed the polymeal (because researchers last year described a ?polypill? that would convey health benefits now mirrored in the polymeal) the diet ?resulted in cardiovascular disease being reduced by 76 percent,? the study?s authors wrote in the Dec. 18 British Medical Journal. The polypill, which contained aspirin, folic acid and drugs to lower cholesterol and blood pressure, reduced risk of heart disease by 80 percent.

?In general, the medical community has welcomed the concept? of a polypill ?but questioned the potential adverse effects and costs of such an intervention,? the study?s authors wrote. In contrast, concerns about the polymeal were few. ?Adverse effects reported for garlic included malodorous breath and body odour. ? No additional adverse effects should be expected from other ingredients.?

The researchers used specific quantities of each component of the diet, and found that it was less effective when any one component was eliminated. Study participants consumed 150 ml daily of wine, 114 g of fish four times a week, 100 g daily of dark chocolate, 400 g daily of fruit and vegetables, 2.7 g of fresh garlic daily, and 68 g daily of almonds. The researchers arrived at these ingredients in these amounts by conducting meta-analyses of published literature.

By adhering to this diet, the life expectancy of men increased by 6.6 years, and by 4.8 years for women. In addition, the number of years people could expect to live without cardiovascular disease increased nine years for men and eight years for women. The researchers noted that the ingredients of the polymeal diet can be consumed together in one meal or individually at different times throughout the day.

Not everyone welcomed the study, however. ?Unfortunately, most of the world doesn?t appreciate British humor,? wrote Dr. Victor I. Gavron, senior science adviser at the U.S. Department of State, on the BMJ Web site. ?When you finish a joke, you need to say ?Just Kidding,? and everyone will understand that they are ?supposed? to laugh.? Most readers who considered the article a satire cited 100 g of chocolate as unsustainable. ?I am a big fan of Droste extra dark chocolate and consume a 100 g bar weekly. While young adults may tolerate it, for some fraction of the polymeal?s target group of age ?over 55,? that much chocolate can act as a powerful laxative,? wrote Brian Converse of North Kingstown, R.I.

?We?re not advocating that people should take this particular set of ingredients for the rest of their lives,? co-researcher Dr. Anna Peeters of Monash University told the Sunday Mail QLD (Queensland, Australia). ?It was more a paper to illustrate that using a dietary combination, you could get effects similar to pharmaceutical combinations.?

The authors offered further caveats within the BMJ article: ?Considering the disturbing adverse effects of garlic, we do not recommend taking the polymeal before a romantic rendezvous, unless the partner also complies with the polymeal.? In addition, ?The polymeal should not be combined with additional consumption of alcohol, in order to avoid intoxication and conflicts with friends, relatives and authorities.?

Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXVI/number 2/p. 7

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