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Health Check: Doctor touts benefits of Mediterranean diet

Olives are a component of the Mediterranean diet.

Could an olive a day keep the doctor away?

A Brown University professor and geriatrician says absolutely. Dr. Richard Besdine calls it the preventive power of the Mediterranean diet.

"I strongly recommend it," said Besdine.

And he's hoping people, especially older Americans, eat it up.

What are the key components of the Mediterranean diet?

"Fresh fruits, all kinds of fresh vegetables, lots of extra virgin olive oil, whole grains, rice, pasta, bread," said Besdine.

Small amounts of meats, the less the better, he said.

"I'm absolutely persuaded that if there's one thing in addition to physical exercise that will prolong physical and cognitive vigor in older adults, it's the Mediterranean diet," said Besdine.

"That's nice to see," said Mary Flynn, a research dietitian at The Miriam Hospital and the author of several books and research touting the benefits of the Mediterranean diet.

She said she's glad doctors, like Besdine, are spreading the word.

"The Mediterranean diet is not a low-fat diet, but because of the amount of olive oil in it, it's a higher fat diet. But it's all healthy fat," said Flynn.

And Besdine has done the research on the research and he's impressed.

"The benefits to the heart and preventing diabetes and cognitive improvement and lower rates of breast cancer," said Besdine.

An added benefit? Some people actually lose weight.

The cornerstone of this diet is the extra virgin olive oil. What is it about this particular oil?

"We think it's the polyphenols in the olive oil," said Besdine. "They're powerful antioxidants, some of the most powerful that we know about."

And now he's spreading the word to his medical students at Brown.

"We teach them evidence-based medicine and this is now evidence-based," he said.

Red wine is also part of the Mediterranean diet. Besdine said a couple of glasses a day.

Find out more about the Mediterranean diet in Besdine's blog in the Huffington Post.

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