Scientific evidence of interventions using the Mediterranean diet: a systematic review

Lluís Serra-Majem, Blanca Roman, Ramón Estruch
Nutrition Reviews 2006, 64 (2): S27-47
The Mediterranean Diet has been associated with greater longevity and quality of life in epidemiological studies, the majority being observational. The application of evidence-based medicine to the area of public health nutrition involves the necessity of developing clinical trials and systematic reviews to develop sound recommendations. The purpose of this study was to analyze and review the experimental studies on Mediterranean diet and disease prevention. A systematic review was made and a total of 43 articles corresponding to 35 different experimental studies were selected. Results were analyzed for the effects of the Mediterranean diet on lipoproteins, endothelial resistance, diabetes and antioxidative capacity, cardiovascular diseases, arthritis, cancer, body composition, and psychological function. The Mediterranean diet showed favorable effects on lipoprotein levels, endothelium vasodilatation, insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, antioxidant capacity, myocardial and cardiovascular mortality, and cancer incidence in obese patients and in those with previous myocardial infarction. Results disclose the mechanisms of the Mediterranean diet in disease prevention, particularly in cardiovascular disease secondary prevention, but also emphasize the need to undertake experimental research and systematic reviews in the areas of primary prevention of cardiovascular disease, hypertension, diabetes, obesity, infectious diseases, age-related cognitive impairment, and cancer, among others. Interventions should use food scores or patterns to ascertain adherence to the Mediterranean diet. Further experimental research is needed to corroborate the benefits of the Mediterranean diet and the underlying mechanisms, and in this sense the methodology of the ongoing PREDIMED study is explained.

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