Mediterranean diet refers to the traditional food consumed in the Mediterranean region that includes Italy, Spain, Greece, Turkey, etc. It is not a such rigid diet regime but rather a diverse and variable in recipe across cultures in the Mediterranean basin. Eventhough most researches on mediterranean diet and its health benefits are observational, growing number of researches associate mediterranean diet with greater longitivity (anti-aging effect) and lower diseases incidence such as heart disease, Alzheimer's disease diabetes, hypertension and cancer, as compared to western diet. People in this region consume moderately red wine, olive oil, whole grain foods, legumes, fruits and vegetables that are high in antioxidantscontent.

To help our understanding of the health benefits of mediterranean diet, below is a list of sample of its nutritional qualities:

  • High monounsaturated-to-saturated fat ratio
  • Moderate wine consumption
  • High consumption of cereals, fruits, legumes, and vegetables
  • Fresh fruits as the typical daily dessert with sweets based on nuts, olive oil, and concentrated sugars or honey consumed during feast days
  • Low consumption of meat and meat products
  • Moderate consumption of milk and dairy products (mainly cheese and yogurt)
  • Minimally processed, seasonally fresh, and locally grown foods
  • Olive oil as the principal source of dietary fats
  • Fewer than four eggs consumed per week

 

Health benefits of Mediterranean diet

Sample of researches comparing Mediterranean diet with other diet regimes or habits.

Effects of Mediterranean diet

Swedish diet vs Mediterranean diet

Lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and total cholesterol. No effect on oxidative stress (induced by free-radicals) and blood glucose.

Saturated fat-enriched diet vs. low fat and high carbohydrate diet vs. Mediterranean diet

Mediterranean diet and low fat and carbohydrate diet resulted in lower low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, and total cholesterol.

Monounsaturated fat rich-diet (Mediteranean diet) vs. polyunsaturated fat rich diet

Lower fasting plasma insulin, greater content of oleic acid, and less linoleic acid and stearic acid. Increased transport of blood glucose by insulin.

Mediterranean diet vs. Western diet. With wine in both diets during some part of the trial.

Higher total plasma antioxidant capacity, lower oxidative DNA damage, higher vitamin C levels. Wine supplementation resulted in higher plasma vitamin C levels, total antioxidant reactivity in the Mediteranean diet.


Mediterranean diet and cancer

Source:

Trinchopoulou, A., Lagiou, P., and Papas, A.M. 1999. Mediterranean diet: Are antioxidants central to its benefits? In: Antioxidant Status, Diet, Nutrition, and Health. Ed. Papas, A. CRC press, London . pg 108-118.


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