The fact that this diet has considerable beneficial health effects constitutes a ‘natural experiment’ .
The traditional Mediterranean diet is the dietary pattern prevailing among the people of the olive tree-growing areas of the Mediterranean basin before the mid-1960s. Before globalization it has made its influence on lifestyle, including diet. Key determinants of the traditional Mediterranean diet have been climate, flora and hardship, the latter discouraging import or consumption of expensive, at that time, red meat .
The beneficial health effects of Mediterranean diet comes from:
- high consumption of vegetables, fruits and nuts, legumes, and unprocessed cereals
- low consumption of meat and meat products
- low consumption of dairy products (with the exception of the long-preservable cheeses)
Alcohol usually is not related to beneficial health effects, but its consumption was common in the traditional Mediterranean diet, but generally in moderation and in the form of wine.
The fact that this diet has considerable beneficial health effects constitutes a ‘natural experiment’ that investigators try to understand and people benefit from:
- inverse associations with overall mortality and with the incidence of coronary heart disease and thrombotic stroke
- compelling inverse associations with incidence of cancer overall (including, possibly, incidence of breast and colorectal cancer), likely inverse association with the incidence of adult-onset diabetes mellitus and possibly with the incidence of hip fractures
- There have also been randomized trials supporting a beneficial role of the Mediterranean diet on the incidence of cardiovascular events and of survival from coronary heart disease
Future studies may follow to improve and enrich our approach to disentangle the beneficial health effects of the components of the Mediterranean diet and of their mutual interactions.
They could also focus on the identification of the key compounds in this diet or biochemical or molecular mediators of its beneficial health effects. Meanwhile, people could try to adjust their diets to the principles of the traditional Mediterranean diet, as outlined above.
After all, this diet is not only health promoting, as the overwhelming evidence indicates, but also delicious, as many of those who have tried variations of it readily acknowledged.
(from Antonia Trichopoulou,
Details on http://www.biomedcentral.com/1741-7015/12/112)