A study has found that Mediterranean diets among higher income and lower income people are not equal in terms of health benefits. Why is that? Researchers say that it comes down to the quality of the food.
Not All Mediterranean Diets Are The Same
The Mediterranean diet is a popular diet known for its focus on fish, unrefined foods and olive oil. However, researchers have found that its health benefits, although real, are usually only for people who have the financial ability to pay for it.
According to the Italian Research, Healthcare and Hospitalization Institute, people who followed the Mediterranean diet only showed reduced cardiovascular risk if they had higher incomes. Those who had lower incomes showed much lower benefits.
The researchers analyzed 18,000 participants who were asked about their daily intake of legumes, cereals, veggies, fruits, nuts, fish, fats, dairy, meat and alcohol. They found that those who followed the “optimal” version of a Mediterranean diet had various incomes. So why did they find a difference with regards to heart health benefits?
Marialaura Bonaccio, one of the researchers, said: “Although we cannot definitely answer this question, we observed that, given a similar adherence to the Mediterranean diet, people with higher socioeconomic position (higher income, or greater educational level) showed more favorable eating behaviors overall.”
So Why Is There A Difference?
According to the researchers, Mediterranean diets dictate which foods to eat, but does not dictate the quality of these foods, which is what most likely creates the difference in health benefits between higher income and lower income people.
According to Bonaccio, the people who had higher health benefits more often reported to have a diet high in polyphenols or antioxidants. They were also more likely to report eating organic foods and a wide variety of veggies and fruits.
“Such disparities persist within a comparable Mediterranean diet adherence, and possibly account for the different health outcomes observed in the socioeconomic groups,” she said.