The Mediterranean Diet has certain types and amounts of food. If eaten for a number of years, it has been shown to reduce the risks of developing heart disease, cancer, high blood pressure (hypertension), type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease. Following the diet has also been linked with a reduced risk of early death and has proved a successful strategy for healthy weight reduction. You don’t need any particular cooking skills to produce inexpensive, delicious, meals fitting the Mediterranean Diet.
The Mediterranean diet is a modern nutritional recommendation inspired by the traditional dietary patterns of Greece, southern Italy, and Spain. The principal aspects of this diet include proportionally high consumption of olive oil, legumes, unrefined cereals, fruits, and vegetables, moderate to high consumption of fish, moderate consumption of dairy products (mostly as cheese and yogurt), moderate wine consumption, and low consumption of meat and meat products.
-Get your Meds: the Mediterranean Diet and Health”, Ellen Gooch, Epikouria Magazine, Fall 2005
The ‘ideal’ Mediterranean Diet
The ‘ideal’ (in terms of health-giving effects) Mediterranean Diet has, in relation to a typical Western diet:
High quantities of: a variety of vegetables, a variety of fruit, legumes (eg, beans), cereals and cereal products.
Moderate quantities of: fish, white meats, nuts, low-fat dairy produce, wine (men: 1-3 units per day, women: 1-2 units per day) with meals.
Low quantities of: red meat, eggs, sweets and sweet desserts.
A high mono-unsaturated fat (eg, olive oil) to saturated animal fat (eg, fatty red meat) ratio – at least 2:1.
Low amounts of added salt – in many cases, herbs can be used for flavouring in place of excess salt.
Lifestyle and risk
The modern Western diet, living in cities, office working, daily stress and reliance on the car all appear to have contributed to a recipe for unhealthy living.
Heart disease is still the most common cause of death (and premature death).
Unhealthy lifestyle, diet and obesity have also been linked to type 2 diabetes, raised cholesterol and high blood pressure. These conditions can combine to make medical risks and problems more severe. Diet, lifestyle factors and obesity are also associated with an increased risk of certain cancers. Being substantially overweight can bring on or worsen osteoarthritis, sleep apnoea (a condition where your breathing stops for short spells during sleep), high blood pressure and gallbladder disease.
What are the measured benefits of the Mediterranean Diet?
Scientists have compared the risks of developing heart and other diseases in populations that did and didn’t adopt the diet. People who had closely followed the Mediterranean Diet were found to have:
Increased longevity – that is, a reduced chance of death at any age – due mainly to reductions in the chance of developing, having a recurrence of, or dying from heart disease or cancer. The results have been confirmed in UK and USA populations and represent around a 20% reduced risk of death at any age.
Reduction in the chance of developing type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, or raised blood cholesterol, each of which is associated with cardiac and vascular disease, as well as other serious complications. And each of which may require permanent medication once developed.
Reduction in the chance of becoming obese and that the Mediterranean Diet formed the basis for a balanced reduction in weight.
Reduction in the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease.