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The Da Vinci Health Code

Did Leonardo da Vinci know as much about health as he did about art?

WebMD Feature

From the use of herbs to treat a wide variety of illnesses to a reliance on the Mediterranean diet and an emphasis on regular physical activity, many of the health trends that thrived in the days of Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance are alive and well today.

In fact, books such as The Diet Code: Revolutionary Weight Loss Secrets from Da Vinci and The Golden Ratio and The Da Vinci Fitness Code are seeking to shine new light on how the masters lived.

Literally meaning "rebirth," the Renaissance marks the period in European history that followed the Middle Ages. During this time, painting, sculpture, science, and architecture thrived, and now some say diet, fitness, and health did, too.

The Diet Code?

Much like in The Da Vinci Code, in which a symbologist uncovers a code in the paintings of Leonardo da Vinci, Stephen Lanzalotta, a baker from Portland, Maine, and the author of The Diet Code, says he has cracked a similar code in the foods we eat and that understanding this code can help people lose weight and feel better.

The diet is based on the principles of the traditional Mediterranean diet, meaning it is replete with whole grains, protein, and fresh fruits and vegetables. "It's not about dropping 5 pounds, but about changing your life habits and leading a fuller, richer life," Lanzalotta tells WebMD.

A seasoned baker, Lanzalotta was almost run out of town when the Atkins low-carb craze erupted. But, he says, "it can't be bread that is making us fat or it would have happened a long time ago. In the Renaissance, bread was a major part of the diet."

Enter the golden ratio (1.618), a mathematical value that is has been found in architecture (such as in the pyramids of Egypt) and in nature (such as in pine cones, sunflowers, and seashells). Da Vinci is said to have used the golden ratio to proportion the human figures in his paintings like the Mona Lisa.

"The golden ratio occurs everywhere in nature and humans are part of the natural world, so it is very familiar," Lanzalotta says. However, no one has applied it to eating until now. "I applied it to baking bread and portioning ingredients as well as the diet," he says. In a nutshell, each meal should comprise one part grain carbohydrate, two parts protein, and three parts vegetables.

John Rumberger, PhD, MD, the medical director of Healthwise Wellness Diagnostic Center and a clinical professor of medicine at Ohio State University, both in Columbus Ohio, says that The Diet Code is just another play on the Mediterranean diet.

The Mediterranean-style diet capitalizes on whole grains, protein, and good fats such as polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats including olive oil and lots of fresh fish, which is rich in omega-3 fatty acids.

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