The Mediterranean Diet: a Powerhouse of Health Benefits

In the 1960’s, researchers found that people living in Crete, Greece and southern Italy had surprisingly low rates of chronic disease. People in these countries were living longer, even without good access to healthcare. In fact, these countries had one of the lowest rates of chronic disease in the world at that time. The researchers found their traditional diet of fresh fruits and vegetables, heart-healthy fats, whole grains, lean protein, and little processed foods, as well as their lifestyle physical activity, supported this healthy way of life.1

What makes the Mediterranean Diet so healthy?

What exactly does the Mediterranean Diet include?

Health benefits of the Mediterranean diet

Today, the Mediterranean diet is famous for its health benefits. The upcoming 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans will recommend the Mediterranean diet as a healthy way to eat.2 Research shows that the Mediterranean diet can:

  • Lower the risk of stroke or heart attack3
  • Help prevent high blood pressure4
  • Protect against type 2 diabetes5
  • Lower the risk of dementia6
  • Improve brain function in older adults7.

Breast cancer and the Mediterranean diet

A recent study looked at how the Mediterranean diet, with different sources of fat, affects the risk of breast cancer. One group was asked to follow the Mediterranean diet and get their fats mostly from extra virgin olive oil. This group used about 1/2 cup of olive oil each day. The other group was asked to get their fats mostly from mixed nuts (walnuts, hazelnuts and almonds). They ate about 1/4 cup of nuts each day. The people in the olive oil group had a lower chance of getting breast cancer than the group who ate nuts. The researchers think the large amounts of olive oil in the Mediterranean diet key to its health benefits, for breast cancer and other chronic diseases.

By adopting the Mediterranean lifestyle, you can eat smart, move more, and live a healthier life, too!


1. Mediterranean Diet Pyramid | Oldways. 2015. Available at: Accessed October 18, 2015.
2. Millen, B., Lichtenstein, A., Abrams, S., Hu, F., Adams-Campbell, L., & Nelson, M. et al. (2015). Scientific Report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. USDA and Department of Health and Human Services. Retrieved 12 October 2015, from
3. Estruch R, Ros E, Salas-Salvado J, Covas M, Corella D. Primary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease with a Mediterranean Diet. The New England Journal of Medicine. 2015;368(14):1279-1290.
4. Kastorini C, Milionis H, Esposito K, Giugliano D, Goudevenos J, Panagiotakos D. The Effect of Mediterranean Diet on Metabolic Syndrome and its Components : A Meta-Analysis of 50 Studies and 534,906 Individuals. Journal of American College of Cardiology. 2011;57(11):1299-1313.
5. Salas-Salvado J, Bullo M, Babio N et al. Reduction in the Incidence of Type 2 Diabetes With the Mediterranean Diet: Results of the PREDIMED-Reus nutrition intervention randomized trial. Diabetes Care. 2010;34(1):14-19. doi:10.2337/dc10-1288.
6. Solfrizzi V, Frisardi V, Seripa D et al. Mediterranean Diet in Predementia and Dementia Syndromes. CAR. 2011;8(5):520-542. doi:10.2174/156720511796391809.
7. Valls-Pedret C, Sala-Vila A, Serra-Mir M et al. Mediterranean Diet and Age-Related Cognitive Decline. JAMA Internal Medicine. 2015;175(7):1094. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2015.1668.
Toledo E, Salas-Salvadó J, Donat-Vargas C et al. Mediterranean Diet and Invasive Breast Cancer Risk Among Women at High Cardiovascular Risk in the PREDIMED Trial. JAMA Internal Medicine. 2015:1. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2015.48

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