What is Mediterranean diet?
The Mediterranean diet is, as the etymology of the word itself (from the Greek diaita) suggests, a lifestyle,a cultural element of the peoples living in the Mediterranean basin.
It has not only nutritional, cultural and social value, but presents itself as a sustainable diet model for health and the environment. Its protective effects against chronic-degenerative diseases and mortality have been demonstrated by numerous studies conducted in recent decades, while respect for the territory, seasonality and biodiversity, ensure that the balance between man and nature.
Listed by UNESCO in the list of oral and intangible heritage of Humanity in 2010, the Mediterranean diet is characterized by:
- high consumption of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds;
- olive oil as the main source of fats;
- moderate consumption of fish, dairy products and eggs ;
- low meat consumption ;
- regular consumption of moderate amounts of wine during meals .
Although it has its roots in antiquity, this food model was only “discovered” in the 1960s, when the American professor Ancel Keys,a world-renowned physiologist and nutritionist, came up with the term “Mediterranean diet”.
Assuming a possible relationship between lifestyle, eating habits and low incidence of cardiovascular diseases in patients of the Hospital of Naples and in the Cilento area in the immediate post-war period he started the famous “Seven Countries’ Study,an epidemiological study involving more than 12,000 people from seven countries around the world (Finland, Japan, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, the United States and Yugoslavia), and which compared the lifestyle and diets adopted by these populations.
The results confirmed his hypothesis, pointing out that in Italy and Greece the mortality rate from ischemic heart disease was much lower than in other countries. The more the diet of the populations examined deviated from the Mediterranean, the greater the incidence of cardiovascular and cancer diseases.
These results began a lot of research, with the intention of understanding the reasons for the beneficial effects of the Mediterranean diet.
Subsequently, numerous studies of large and different populations have shown in an incontrovertible way how a Mediterranean-type diet model leads to a longer life expectancy and a lower incidence of chronic diseases such as diseases cardiovascular, cancer and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.
According to the latest scientific evidence, a 2-point increase in the Mediterranean diet adherence score results in a significant reduction of 9 in mortality, 10 in the risk of cardiovascular disease and 5 points of disease cancers. Positive effects have also been observed with regard to neurodegenerative diseases (-13%) such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s syndrome.
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