Mediterranean Diet

Medical Editor:

What is the Mediterranean diet?

The Mediterranean diet has been under research for over 50 years, and its benefits continue to become apparent. The health benefits of the Mediterranean diet range from a lower risk of heart disease, certain cancers, diabetes, Alzheimer's, osteoporosis, and stroke; lower blood pressure and LDL levels; improved brain function, eye health, and fertility; healthy body weight; and increased life span. The good news is that you do not need to live in this geographic area to get these benefits. All that you need to do is understand where they come from and what changes you can make to your diet to get them.

The Mediterranean means "the sea between lands." This region is defined by countries that border this sea. Take a look at the map and you will get an idea of how diverse this region actually is. The diet followed throughout this region is also diverse. There are cultural, ethnic, religious, economic, and agricultural production differences impacting the dietary differences. So, while many people like to claim that there is one Mediterranean diet, this is not accurate.

The studies done on the Mediterranean diet are not all created equal. These studies use different questionnaires, containing different foods, to measure compliance with the Mediterranean diet. This means that the results that you hear about are not all obtained using the same foods and nutrients. This is important to understand because it gives you lots of options for what you can do with your diet. There is no one Mediterranean diet that you have to follow. Instead, there are different foods, beverages, herbs, and seasonings for the Mediterranean region that you can choose from.

Picture of the Mediterranean diet food pyramid
Picture of the Mediterranean diet food pyramid
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/5/2013

What are the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids?

Scientific evidence is mounting that fish oil (predominantly omega-3 fatty acids) can reduce the risk of sudden cardiac death. Some scientists also believe that omega-3 fatty acids can improve one's blood lipid (cholesterol and triglyceride) levels and decrease the risk of coronary heart disease.