First of all: what is the Mediterranean diet?
It is the diet typical of the Mediterranean countries, especially those in Southern Europe, but not so much those in North Africa. Its fame dates back to the 1960s when a study was carried out comparing the incidence of heart disease and cardiovascular mortality in seven different countries. It was found that the incidence was much lower in Mediterranean countries—especially Italy and Greece—and even in comparison with other richer countries such as the United States or Finland. And when the cause of these differences was investigated, it was concluded that it was lifestyle and, more specifically, eating habits. Then, Dr. Ancel Keys, a professor of nutrition from Minnesota, published a book on the Mediterranean diet, which became very popular and all the studies on this subject began.
Why is it so beneficial?
A large number of studies have been carried out comparing it with other dietary patterns, and it has been seen that it really has a clear effect in reducing various illnesses. The most common and frequently studied illness is cardiovascular disease, where it has been clearly shown that it is the optimal pattern for both prevention and treatment. However, it is also beneficial for diabetes, neurodegenerative diseases such as cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease, as well as for the prevention of some types of cancer. Between 70% and 80% of diseases are linked to lifestyle and dietary habits in one way or another. This is why diet is so important in the prevention of almost all noncommunicable chronic diseases.