The Mediterranean diet represents the dietary model usually consumed among the populations that surround the Mediterranean Sea. Although it is not possible to speak of a single and exclusive type of Mediterranean diet, it has common characteristics.
The Mediterranean diet (DMed) is considered one of the greatest accumulated scientific evidence dietary patterns regarding its benefits in human health, being greater the scientific world interest in the study of its preventive role and as a treatment in various associated pathologies to chronic inflammation, such as metabolic syndrome (MS), diabetes, cardiovascular disease (CVD), neurodegenerative diseases and cancer, among others.
Cereals such as rice, common and whole pasta, legumes, fresh and dried fruits, vegetables that provide vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fibers, complex carbohydrates, and olive oil, rich in monounsaturated fatty acids are some of its most common ingredients.
These fatty acids have been shown to regulate the HDL ("good cholesterol") / LDL ("bad cholesterol") ratio, preventing the formation of atheroma plaques in the arteries. Also, fish, rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids, especially omega-3, collaborates by increasing HDL and decreasing LDL and moderate consumption of dairy (such as yogurt and cheese), eggs, and poultry. There are also other variables such as the infrequent consumption of pork, lamb, and beef. Wine (moderately) and seasonings such as garlic, onion, oregano, and pepper are included.
The concept of DMed became popular as a consequence of the “Study of the Seven Countries”, led by Ancel Keys between 1958 and 1964. In this study, there was a follow up of the dietary habits of different non-Mediterranean countries (United States, Japan, Finland, and Holland) and Mediterranean countries (Yugoslavia, Italy, and Greece). The results confirmed lower mortality from coronary and general disease and a longer life expectancy in the Mediterranean countries, particularly in Greece.
In September 2008, the results obtained by a group of researchers from the University of Florence (Italy) were published in the British Medical Journal. This study analyzed the incidence of diseases and mortality in a total of 1,574,299 subjects who maintained a Mediterranean diet during a period of 3 to 18 years. It was shown that greater adherence to a Mediterranean diet is associated with an improvement in health status, reducing total mortality by 9%, cardiovascular disease mortality by 9%, cancer incidence or mortality by 6%, and incidence of Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease by 13%. These results are relevant for public health, in particular to promote a feeding model similar to the Mediterranean diet for the primary prevention of the main chronic diseases.
In 2010, this diet was declared Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. The Mediterranean Diet has won first place in 2019 as the best general diet, in the rankings announced by US News and World Report. In 2018, the first place for the best diet was a tie between the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet, which stands for dietary approaches to stop hypertension.