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Mediterranean Diet

Diet Origins

The idea for this diet originated by Dr. Ancel Keys, and American physiologist and nutritionist living in Italy after a 20 year medical study that concluded in 1978.  In 1993, the diet was developed by the Oldways Preservation & Exchange Trust, the Harvard School of Public Health, and the World Health Organization.  

Diet Philosophy 

"Mediterranean diets originate from 16 different countries."  This particular diet is similar to the eating habits of the Mediterranean region that includes Crete, Greece, and southern Italy during the time period of the 1960's.  Prior to and during this time period, life expectancy of adults were the highest in the world.  Occurence of chronic diseases were also the lowest.   This diet plan encourages enjoyment of food, good heahlth fully flavored food.  And the mealtime is meant to be slow.  This diet is not meant to be a dramatic shift from your current way of eating.  It is meant to be practical and easy to incorporate into your lifestyle.  "The Mediterranean Diet Pyramind was first introduced in 1993>.  Moderation, not deprivation.  

Diet Claims

"Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the number one killer of both men and women in the United States.  According to the American Heart Association, an estimated 80 million American adults (one in three) have one or more forms of cardiovascular disease. "

  • Heart health
  • Longer life
  • Lower risk of cancer
  • Improved cognitive function
  • Less depression
  • Better control of blood sugar
  • Inflamation relief

Diet Structure

This diet emphasizes healthy fats, fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, and whole grains.  Foods to consume less of include saturated fats, trans fats, and dairy.  Drink 8-12 8 oz. glasses of water a day.  This diet has 40% fat (good fat) compared to 30 percent recommended by the American Heart Association.   "The Mediterranean Diet Pyramind is a way to help people visualize the diet."  "The pyramod not only represents the foods of the Mediterranean but takes into account other factors that come highly recommended as part of the lifestyle incuding physical activity, the enjoyment of meals with others, and the appreciation for the pleasure of eating these tasty and healthyl foods."  Three balanced meals and snacks.  

Banned Foods

  • Sugar subsititutes
  • Butter, margarine, saturated and trans fats.
  • Salt as a seasoning

Although, not banned, use of processed foods and whole dairy products should be judicial.  Use fat-free of low-fat dairy preferably. 

"Don't avoid your favorite foods.  Deprivation can cause cravings that you just can't let go.  Eat the foods you love from time to time in moderation - and watch your portion sizes.  

Eating Out


Use fresh fruits and fruit-based desserts to fulfill your sweet tooth.  Honey is good.  


Red wine is allowed in small portions with meals, but it is not recommended that non-drinkers take it up for health benefits.  Instead, subsitute with a glass of grape juice.



Physical activity, rather than exercise, is what is important.  Make lifestlye changes to encourages movement in your day to day activities.  This diet plan agrees with the Dietary Guidelines for American which promotes a minimun of 30 minutes of moderate physical activity on most days of the week.  

Diet Testing

Prior to developing this diet, Dr. Keys initiated a 20 year study in 1958 (Seven Countries Study) to evaluate how diet affects heart disease.  His study results resulted in the creation of the Mediterranean Diet.  

"A 2002 study in the New England Journal of Medicine that followed 2,000 adults concluded that the adherence to the principles of the traditional Mediterranean diet is associated with a longer survival rate."

"A study by the British Medical Journal (BMJ) in September 2008 concluded that greater adherence ot a Mediterranean diet is associated with a significant improvement in one'e health.  Proof is in the decrease of overall mortality by 9 percent, death from cardiovascular diseases by 9 percent, decrease in cancer by 6 percent, and decrease in the incidence of Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease by 13 percent.  This and other studies concerning the Mediterranean diet help encourage people to adopt a Mediterranean-type eating style for primary prevention of major chronic health conditions."

"A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2003 inspected at length the eating habits of more than 22,000 people living in Greece.  During the intense, four-year study, researchers confirmed that the  closer people followed the Mediterranean diet, the less likely they were to die from either heart disease or cancer.  In additiona, a large clinical study sponsored by the National Insitutes of Health (NIH) and the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) published results in teh Archives of Internal Medicine in 2007 suggesting that there is strong evidence that implementing a Mediterranean dietary pattern lowers the risk for death from all causes including deaths due to cardiovascular disease and cancer in the U.S. population."

"A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2007 concluded that frequent consumption of foods from the Mediterreran pattern may reduce cardiovascular disease as well as ischemic heart disease risks."

"The Lyon Diet Heart Study, done in 2001, provided strong evidence that people eating a Mediterreanean diet had a 50 to 70 percent lower risk of recurrent heart disease."

"Studies show that the overall cancer incidence in people following a Mediterranean type eating pattern is much lower than those not following it.  In 2008, the British Journal of Cancer concluded from a general population investigation that adherence to the traditional Mediterranean diet is associated wiht markedly and significantly reduced incidence of overall cancer, and this reduced incidence was appreciably larger than predicted from examining individual Mediterranean diet components.  This is evidence that it's the diet as a whole, and the many cancer-fighting foods included in the diet, working to provide protection.  It has been estimated that close to 25 percent of colorectal cancer; 15 percent of breast cancer; and 10 percent of prostate, pancreatic, and endometrial cancers could possibley be prevented by shifting to an eating style like the Mediterranean diet."

"Depressive disorders are serious and affect almost 18.8 million American adults - about 9.5 percent of the U.S. population.  Recent research is beginning to suggest that people who follow a traditional Mediterranean diet may be less likely to develop depression.  A new study pulblished in the Archives of General Psychiatry concluded that those people who most closely followed the Meditteranean Diet were more than 30 percent less likely to develop depression than those people who adhered to the diet the least."  

"New research has shown that the Mediterranean diet may be a winning solution for people with type 2 diabetes.  The study indicated that the Mediterranean diet group had better blood sugar control and was much less likely to need the intervention of medications to get their blood sugars wihtin a normal range."

"According to a 2008 study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the Mediterranean style fo eating may hold some promise in helping to prevent hypertension.  Another study was published in 2004 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition demonstrating that blood pressure levels were lower in those people who followed a Mediterranean diet.  This particular study highlighted the importance of olive oil in proportion to blood pressure decreases."

"Studies suggest that following a Mediterrean diet can lower the risk for mental decline, and adding exercise can lower your risk even more.  A 2006 study by the Taub Institute for Research on Alzheimer's Disease and the Aging Brain at Columbia University Medical Center showed that elderly people from one specific state whose eating habits most resembled the Mediterranean diet had nearly a 40 percent lower risk of Alzheimer's disease compared to those with poor diets.  In addition, the study showed that those who were more physically active had the least risk for Alzheimer's disease."

"Through the many studies done on the Meditterranean diet, it has become evident that the incidence of Parkinson's disease is lower in people that adhere to a Mediterranean eating style.  In 2007, a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition concluded that dietary patterns with high intake of fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts, fish, and poultry combine with a low intake of saturated fat and a moderate intake of alcohol may help protect against Parkinson's disease."

"The diet has been shown to positively benefit peole with arthritis by reducing inflamation and improving function.  The results of a 2003 study in the Annals of Rheumatic Diseases indicated that by adjusting to a Mediterranean diet, paitents with rheumatoid arthritis obtained a reduction in inflamatory activity, and increase in physical function, and improved vitality."

Anticipated Weight Loss

 "The Mediterranean diet is known first for its health benefits - especially heart health - but it can also have a positive impact on your weight.  

Measuring Tools

Counting calories and proper portion size are necessary tools.  This diet uses the BMI to guide you in determining your healthy weight.  

Blood pressure

"A blood pressure level of 140/90 mmHg or higher is considered high.  If your blood pressure is between 120/80 mmHg adn 139/89 mmHg, you have pre-hypertension, meaning you are likely to develop high blood pressure."

Keep a food journal.

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