Key Components of the Mediterranean Diet

Dr. Ancel Keys was an American scientist who lived for almost 101 years. He and his colleagues studied the diets of more than twelve thousand men residing in countries around the world; they also obtained data on death rates and causes of death. The Seven Countries Study, begun in the 1950s, showed that people who lived on the Greek island of Crete had the world’s lowest rate of death from cardiac disease and the longest life expectancy, despite a diet that was high in fat (the only fat in the Cretan diet was olive oil).

Nowadays we call the diet Cretans consumed in the 1950s the Mediterranean diet. It includes:

Colorful fruits and vegetables
Whole grains and nuts
Legumes (beans)
Olive oil as the main source of fat calories
Very little meat
Cheese in moderation
Red wine with meals

It’s worthy of note that the Seven Countries Study was an observational study. Something other than the Mediterranean diet may have been the cause of the low rates of heart disease in Crete, like all the exercise they got, or the naps they took after lunch, or their closeness to nature in an area of the world
almost unmatched for beauty.  But Mediterranean diet is definitely one of the most famous health diets for heart health.

A study of 214,284 men and 166,012 women who participated in a clinical trial researching the effect of the Mediterranean diet on mortality between 1995 and 2005. All were healthy and free of cancer and heart disease at the beginning of the study. Men whose diet conformed most to the Mediterranean diet lowered their risk of death from any cause by 23 percent, death from cancer by 21 percent, and death from cardiovascular disease by 24 percent when compared to those whose diet conformed least. The
comparable numbers for women were 22 percent, 14 percent, and 21 percent.

Several excellent studies elucidate the mechanisms by which the Mediterranean diet confers protection against chronic disease. As study after study has shown, adhering to the Mediterranean diet has multiple beneficial effects on risk factors for atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease.

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