Lesser known in India, the Mediterranean diet has shown to be a heart
friendly diet. This diet is considered to be the local diet in countries such
as Spain, France, Greece, Italy, and Morocco.
The Mediterranean dietary pattern is identified by the following
. high amount of
fruit and vegetables, beans, and nuts;
meats like fish and poultry;
. olive oil as
principal source of fat;
. low consumption of meat and dairy products; and
consumption of wine.
Mediterranean diet focuses on:
. Lots of daily exercise
. Consumption of mainly plant-based foods, such
as fruits and vegetables (7 to 10 servings a day), whole grains, legumes
. Use of healthy fats such as olive oil and
canola oil instead of butter.
. Use of herbs and spices instead of salt to
. Eating fish and poultry at least twice a week
instead of red meat.
. Drinking red wine in moderation (optional).
. Choosing low fat milk, yoghurt, cheese over the
high fat ones.
It has shown to reduce the risk of chronic diseases. Research has elaborated
various benefits of this diet type. They are as follows:
. Means of protection against cardiovascular problems,
metabolic disorders, certain cancers and other age-related degenerative
. Slow ageing and longetivity.
. Protective role (reduction of oxidative stress) due to the
phenolic components present in the diet.
. Reduction of
To study the effects of the Mediterranean diet on health, mainly the
antioxidant status, Dr
Elena Azzini and colleagues from the National Research Institute for Food and
Nutrition, Italy, conducted a study amongst a healthy Italian population
group. The age of the participants ranged between 30 to 35 years. 131 people
participated in the study. The inclusion criteria were as follows:
. No vegan or vegetarian regimes,
. BMI range from 18.5-25 kg/sq m,
. Absence of acute or chronic diseases or metabolic
disorders, smoking habits, alcohol consumption of less than 30g per day for men
and less than 20g per day for women,
. No drugs (aspirin, anti-inflammatory medications) and no
vitamin or mineral supplements.
All enrolled volunteers were evaluated with respect to lifestyle,
anthropometric measurements (weight, height and circumferences) and food
consumption by a dietary diary over four consecutive days including the
weekend. All consumed foods and beverages were recorded by participants which
were checked the day after by the dietician. For more accurate recordings and the
estimation of the portions a photo album was used. Italian Food Composition
Tables were used to calculate energy, macro and micronutrients from daily
The degree of adherence to the traditional MD was assessed using the
Mediterranean Diet Score (MDS). According to the proposed method, food items
were grouped into major food groups based on the Mediterranean diet and for
comparison purposes, the food intake (gram/day) was adjusted to 2500 kcal / day
for men and 2000 kcal / day for women. Foods groups (vegetables, fruits,
legumes, cereals, fish, meat, dairy products, alcohol) as well as relationship
between monounsaturated and saturated fatty acids were considered.
Blood samples (serum, plasma and whole blood) were assessed for the
status by vitamin A, vitamin E,
carotenoids, vitamin C, uric acid, SOD (Superoxide Dismutase) and GP
(Glutathione Peroxidase) activities
. The lipid
blood profile by total cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, LDL cholesterol,
. Total antioxidant
capacity and the immune status
The study findings have shown that although the fat consumption was
seen towards the higher side, there was a lower prevalence of cardiovascular
risk, calculated on waist circumference values.
In subjects with
higher adherence to the diet rich in fruits and vegetables, many positive
health outcomes were observed.
. With higher
consumption of fruits and vegetables, the diet with its high content of antioxidants
exerted a preventive action to lipid oxidation against oxidative stress.
plasma levels of carotenoids, vitamin A and vitamin E were higher with greater
adherence to the diet. Studies have shown that vitamin A can lower the
production of compounds that cause inflammation.
. Consumption of
fruits and vegetables rich in phytochemicals increased the circulating levels
antioxidants, thus improving immunity and protecting the selected sample
from oxidative stress and maintaining a healthy status.
If pondered upon the Mediterranean way of eating proves to be one of the
best and the simplest way of eating. Extremely rich in heart protective
nutrients it surely is a winner all the way. Reference:
Mediterranean Diet Effect: an Italian picture; Elena
Azzini et al; Nutrition Journal 2011.