Dietary Health - Mediterranean Diet
Updated: Jun 25
The seven countries study carried out by Ancel Keys in 1986 was a pioneering study in
this field (Georgoulis et al, 2014). It was hypothesised that the low rate of cardiovascular disease may be down to the diet of the people around the Mediterranean, mainly Greece and Italy.
The population did consume a moderate or high fat intake, as the diet varied from region to region, however the fat intake was predominantly monounsaturated fat (Georgoulis et al, 2014). Monounsaturated fat, in the form of olive oil, is a staple part of the Mediterranean diet as well as lots of vegetables, fruit, legumes, cereal, fish and moderate amounts of red wine at meal times (Sofi et al 2008). It has become apparent in more recent research that the
Mediterranean diet has helped to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2
diabetes, neoplastic diseases, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease (Sofi et al 2008).This section of writing will be looking at the effect the Mediterranean diet has
on the pathogenesis of various diseases.
A randomised control trial was carried out on 7447 people aged between 55 and 80
years of age, of which 57% were female. This study found that a Mediterranean diet
supplemented with either extra virgin olive oil or nuts significantly reduced
cardiovascular risk in this population (Estruch et al 2013). This change is believed to
have occurred due to reductions in blood lipids, an increase in insulin sensitivity and
resistance to oxidation, inflammation and vasoreactivity (Estruch et al 2013).
Type 2 diabetes is characterised by hyperglycaemia, reduced insulin sensitivity,
insulin secretion or each of these symptoms (Georgoulis et al, 2014). The
Mediterranean diet has a beneficial effect on glycaemic control and insulin
sensitivity (Georgoulis et al, 2014).
The Mediterranean diet has been shown to cause a 6% reduction in fatalities from neoplasm (Sofi et al, 2008). Epidemiological and experimental studies have found that there is a correlation between chronic inflammation and cancer (Ostan et al, 2015). Chronic inflammation has been shown to increase all stages of cancer (Ostan et al, 2015). Ostan et al (2015) states that the low intake of omega 6 fatty acids and the moderate intake of omega 3 fatty acids plays a significant role in reducing inflammation and reducing blood
coagulation. The Mediterranean diet reduces free radical damage and reduces
inflammation within the body. As a result this reduces the risk of cancer
development, even in individuals with diabetes or are obese (Ostan et al, 2015).
Alzheimer’s is characterised by the manifestation of amyloid-beta plaques, neuro
fibrillary tangles and loss of neurons in selective places in the brain (Mosconi et al, 2014). Research has shown that the Mediterranean diet, which consists of B complex
vitamins, vitamin D, antioxidants and polyunsaturated fats, has been shown to have a
protective effect on the brain (Mosconi et al, 2014). These nutrients have a
significant benefit on the brain and provide these protective mechanisms;
antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, Aβ anti-oligomerisation properties, vasculo
protective and synaptic plasticity enhancing (Mosconi et al, 2014). With a low
adherence to the Mediterranean diet research has shown that there is cortical
thinning, atrophy of the brain, which can be observed by magnetic resonance imaging
(MRI) (Mosconi et al, 2014).
Parkinson’s Disease is a chronic progressive movement disorder that mainly affects
individual’s over the age of 60 years (Gaba, 2015). The accumulation of alpha
synuclein inclusions in the neurons, known as Lewy bodies (Santiago, Bilyk and
Potashkin, 2014).This disease causes symptoms such as; tremor, slowed movement,
rigidity, depression, different taste and smell perception, GI dysfunction and sleep
disturbance (Gaba, 2015). Santiago, Bilyk and Potashkin (2014) state that the
Mediterranean diet reduces cognitive decline and essential tremor and therefore has
a positive effect on Parkinsons’s disease. The reason for this is that the diet consists
of large quantities of vegetables, legumes, fruits, grains, monounsaturated fatty
acids and fish and has only a moderate to low amount of dairy, meat, poultry and red
wine Santiago, Bilyk and Potashkin (2014).
Gaba (2015) carried out a systematic review on Nutrition and Parkinson’s disease and found that there coffee and black tea, because of the caffeine content, are protective against the development of Parkinson’s disease. Santiago, Bilyk and Potashkin (2014) had previously stated that caffeine is protective against cognitive degeneration. Antioxidants and vitamin D
have shown to be protective against cognitive degeneration. For optimal neuronal cell growth protein, zinc, selenium, iodine, folate, vitamin A and long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids have been recommended, all of which are in abundance within the Mediterranean diet (Santiago, Bilyk and Potashkin, 2014). Gaba (2015) states that dairy products, especially milk, put you at an increased risk of developing Parkinson’s disease.
In conclusion, the research shows that the Mediterranean diet, due to the high
quantities of vegetables, monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats,
wholegrains, legumes and fish, has an astounding influence on the pathogenesis of a
multitude of diseases discussed in this blog.