The incidence of heart disease in Mediterranean countries is lower than in the United States. Death rates are lower, too.1 Lifestyle factors, such as more physical activity and extended social support systems, may be responsible for this, but dietary choices are also felt to play a role. Possible mechanisms for the cardiovascular protection offered by a Mediterranean dietary pattern include the improvement of lipid profiles and reductions in blood pressure, insulin resistance, and inflammatory markers. Studying the actual dietary patterns of this highly diverse population, while controlling for genetics and lifestyle factors, is challenging and some conclusions about the benefits of the Mediterranean-style of eating drew criticism. In recent years, however, a number of rigorous, research projects have reinforced the protective and preventive effects of a Mediterranean-style dietary pattern on health. Health professionals need to understand the components of a Mediterranean diet and the specific health benefits to determine which individuals will benefit from this type of diet.
1. Mediterranean Diet. American Heart Association Web site. https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/nutrition-basics/mediterranean-diet. Updated April 8, 2018. Accessed August 15, 2018.
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