The Mediterranean diet is a nutritional concept founded basically on the principle that the moderate consumption of olive oil and wine will lower the risk of heart disease and obesity. There are many variations of the Mediterranean diet but they all share one common characteristic, and that is the large consumption of olive oil, which dominates all Mediterranean meals.
In contrast to the standard American diet, the diet of Mediterranean people includes primarily fresh, seasonal vegetables rather than canned or imported produce. It contains low to moderate amounts of dairy products and red meat but a lot of fish and poultry, eggs, wine, and beer.
It is fairly high in fat, yet the people have less heart disease because they eat healthy fats like olive oil. The fish tend to be oily fish like sardines that are high in Omega-3 oils. The diet eliminates fried foods that have been cooked in rancid vegetable oils or trans fats.
People who who tried the classic Mediterranean diet rich in vegetables, fruits, olive oil, cereals and fish are said to live longer and are healthier. But a study in Greece has shown that it is the diet as a whole, rather than any specific individual component, that confers health benefits.
Researchers from the University of Athens and the Harvard School of Public Health recorded the eating habits of 22,000 Greeks, and followed their subsequent health and mortality for an average of 3.7 years. Their results showed that the people who ate a diet rich in typical Mediterranean ingredients were less likely to die, suffer coronary heart disease, or cancer during the follow-up period.
Such results of low incidents of heart disease and death rates in the Mediterranean countries has resulted in other countries looking for help from their Mediterranean neighbors with their diet. More studies are needed though to find out whether the diet itself or other lifestyle factors account for the lower death rates and heart disease.