The Mediterranean Diets: What Is So Special about the Diet of Greece? The Scientific Evidence

Artemis P. Simopoulos

2001 – ABSTRACT:  The  term  “Mediterranean  diet,”  implying  that  all  Mediterranean  people  have  the  same  diet,  is a misnomer. The countries around the Mediterranean basin have different diets, religions and cultures. Their diets differ in the amount of total fat, olive oil, type of meat and wine intake; milk vs. cheese; fruits and vegetables; and the rates of coronary heart disease and cancer, with the lower death rates and longer life expectancy occurring in Greece. Extensive studies on the traditional diet of Greece (the diet before 1960) indicate that the dietary pattern of Greeks consists of a high intake of fruits, vegetables (particularly wild plants), nuts and cereals mostly in the form of sourdough bread rather than pasta; more olive oil and olives; less milk but more cheese; more fish; less meat; and moderate amounts of wine, more so than other Mediterranean countries. Analyses of the dietary pattern of the diet  of  Crete  shows  a  number  of  protective  substances,  such  as  selenium,  glutathione,  a  balanced  ratio  of(n-6):(n-3)  essential  fatty  acids  (EFA),  high  amounts  of  fiber,  antioxidants  (especially  resveratrol  from  wine  and polyphenols from olive oil), vitamins E and C, some of which have been shown to be associated with lower risk of cancer,  including  cancer  of  the  breast.  These  findings  should  serve  as  a  strong  incentive  for  the  initiation  of intervention trials that will test the effect of specific dietary patterns in the prevention and management of patients with cancer.