“Eat an apple on going to bed, and you’ll keep the doctor from earning his bread.” The first known use of this adage occurred in Wales in the 1860s, but apples have a respectable history of being recognized as a support for healthful living. While some foods can indeed influence how healthy a person is, healthy nutrition is more complex than any single food item.
In fact, the whole contribution of food to health may be greater than the sum of the individual ingredients. It’s probable that a synergistic effect occurs with many culturally-based diets. For example, the Mediterranean Diet is made up of individual foods, each of which is generally believed to be healthy:
- Vegetable, legumes, fruits
- Cereals (preferably whole grain)
- Monounsaturated fatty acids
- Low levels of dairy, meat and poultry
- Low to moderate alcohol consumption
By some mechanism as yet not fully understood, when taken together consistently over time, it appears that the Mediterranean diet (MeDi) enhances cardiovascular health, reduces inflammation, and protects against degeneration related to oxidation. In particular, consuming less inflammatory foods (many dairy products contribute to an inflammatory response in the body) and keeping tissues in more youthful tone with protective antioxidants are recognized ways to minimize risk of cancer, diabetes and heart disease. Even the probability of developing Alzheimer’s has been lowered among adults who live by the MeDi.
This raises the possibility that the MeDi helps cushion the body against neurodegeneration, a definite factor in Alzheimer’s, and considered by some to be involved in Essential Tremor (ET). In a 2007 case study, Scameas & Louis hypothesized that greater adherence to the MeDi would be linked with lower odds of developing ET.i
The research involved 398 individuals (148 ET patients and 250 matched controls). The authors gathered data on the nutrition/diet of each participant. They found that those who more strictly followed the MeDi had “significantly lower odds of ET.” Compared with those who had the least MeDi consumption, the intermediate group had 59% less risk, and those in the strictest group had 71% reduction.
Aside from the fact that there is a genetic component (ET tends to run in families), there also appears to be nongenetic influences (diet and toxins) that may have a role in developing ET. The authors wrote, “Consumption of many nutritional antioxidants did not differ between ET patients and controls according to a previous study, but the MeDi, being a composite dietary pattern, may be better at capturing the overall antioxidant effect of the diet.” This speaks to the idea that a total and/or synergistic effect of the MeDi is perhaps more powerful than taking a handful of antioxidant supplements every day.
In other words, the ancient wisdom of Hippocrates may well apply to preventing ET: “Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be they food.”
iScameas N, Louis E. Mediterranean diet and essential tremor. Neuroepidemiology. 2007; 29(3-4): 170–177.