Why was the Mediterranean Diet investigated?
In 1980, Professor Ancel Keys published the results of his investigation into cardiovascular death rates in different countries. He found death rates were low in Greece (particularly Crete), southern Italy (also Japan) and relatively high in the USA and Finland.
He investigated the lifestyle of the long-lived Mediterranean people to see if we could learn from them and use the knowledge in higher-risk populations. After such factors as smoking, exercise, education and stress had been taken into account, it was found that diet had played an essential part in keeping these communities healthy. The dietary pattern was not new. In fact, it was a traditional mix of fresh seasonal and easily stored produce, that probably dated back to the early civilizations. It had incorporated new foods, such as tomatoes, peppers and potatoes.
They tried to establish which foods offered particular health benefits, producing all the research into ‘superfoods’. It was found that both individual food components (such as vegetables, fruits, mono-unsaturated fats) and their combination into a long-term dietary pattern were important for health. This led to the identification and description of an ‘ideal’ Mediterranean diet which could be tested on Western populations.
Many long-term population studies, involving hundreds of thousands of people, have been carried out to assess the likely health benefits of switching to a Mediterranean diet