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.