But in terms of hard science, there wasn't much to say the Mediterranean Diet was definitely better for you than what you were already eating. The advice to follow this diet had been based on extrapolating from what experts observed in people eating it or who used to eat it the past, not on actual trials. So when the New England Journal of Medicine published the results of this first such rigorous trial comparing the Mediterranean Diet to a typical "low-fat" (i.e., high-carb) diet and looking not at blood cholesterol but actual health events like strokes, it was big news.
You can read more on the study here: http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1200303. Here's the conclusion reached by the authors of this study:
Among persons at high cardiovascular risk, a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil or nuts reduced the incidence of major cardiovascular events.
I learned that people will have a very hard time changing what they eat because their palates are formed to like what they've been eating all along. This doesn't mean one can't try and like new foods. But a diet -- a pattern of foods one eats most times everyday over a long period of time -- becomes almost hard-wired into our minds, and deviating from this diet prompts our on-board circuitry to reject it. And this is a big reason why a new way of eating doesn't stick over the long-term for most people.
But looking back over the many years that have passed since I first tried to get them to switch to the Mediterranean Diet, I see an interesting thing has happened after all: my parents eat an Indo-Mediterranean Diet!
Or perhaps a Gujarati-Mediterranean Diet. What I mean is that today on their dinner plate there's a salads of fresh raw vegetables (sometimes including Mediterranean herbs like sweet basil and rosemary from their garden), whereas in the past when we were eating a typical Gujarati meal there wasn't any salad. They have cut down the rice and rotli (flatbread) and eat more of the salad, shak bhaji (a dish of vegetables such as spinach, channa or chickpeas, sweet potato, onions, and so on cooked in oil), and dal (lentil based soup).
What's even more interesting is many Uncles and Aunties I've spoken with have told me that they are eating this way too, mixing their own homegrown Indian cuisine with foods like healthier whole grains (such as millet or brown rice) that are a part of the Mediterranean Diet. And people of my age who eat Indian food at home also eat fish and wine, which are also considered staples of the Mediterranean Diet.
I hope this development -- the Indo-Mediterranean Diet -- continues to grow and spread to all corners of the world because the science shows the Mediterranean Diet is good for people at risk for heart disease and stroke (many of us). Combining elements of the Mediterranean Diet with elements of a Healthy Indian Diet based on other fruits, vegetables, healthy grains, healthy fats, nuts, yogurts, and above all else spices like turmeric and black pepper lets us reap the benefits and tastes of both worlds.
Read more about expert opinions on this Mediterranean Diet study here: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/26/health/mediterranean-diet-can-cut-heart-disease-study-finds.html.
And here's a great summary of the study: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324338604578326160736614012.