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Benefits and Harms of the Mediterranean Diet Compared to Other Diets

Evidence-based Synthesis Program

Investigators: Hanna E Bloomfield, MD, MPH, Robert Kane, MD, Eva Koeller, BA, Nancy Greer, PhD, Roderick MacDonald, MS, and Timothy Wilt, MD, MPH.

Washington (DC): Department of Veterans Affairs (US); 2015 Nov.
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A large number of epidemiologic studies have investigated the association between diet and mortality and morbidity. Of particular recent interest is the Mediterranean diet, first described by Ancel Keys over 50 years ago. This diet is characterized by high intake of olive oil, fruits and vegetables, whole grains and cereals, legumes, fish, and nuts; low intake of red meat, dairy products, and sweets; and moderate intake of red wine with meals. Epidemiologic studies have shown that the incidence of cardiovascular disease in populations that consume such diets is lower than in populations that consume a more typical “Western” diet that is rich in red meat, dairy products, processed and artificially sweetened foods, and salt, with minimal intake of fruits, vegetables, fish, legumes, and whole grains.

Based on these epidemiologic studies, several randomized controlled trials were conducted to test the hypothesis that adopting a Mediterranean diet in adulthood reduces chronic disease burden (eg, incidence of and/ or mortality from cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, hypertension, cognitive impairment, and kidney disease) and/or all-cause mortality (viz, PREDIMED, Lyon Heart Study, THIS-DIET). These trials included populations from a variety of geographical locations and with a spectrum of demographic and clinical characteristics.

Although several systematic reviews of the relevant observational studies and clinical trials have been published, the VA's Evidence-based Synthesis Program, in conjunction with the Office of Quality and Performance and in response to a request from the VA's National Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention and Primary Care Services, commissioned the present study to update prior reviews and to specifically assess the implications for the treatment and prevention of common chronic conditions in the Veteran population.

Contents

Prepared for: Department of Veterans Affairs, Veterans Health Administration, Quality Enhancement Research Initiative, Health Services Research & Development Service, Washington, DC 20420. Prepared by:, Evidence-based Synthesis Program (ESP), Minneapolis VA Medical Center, Minneapolis, MN, Timothy J. Wilt, MD, MPH, Director

Suggested citation:

Bloomfield H, Kane R, Koeller E, Greer N, MacDonald R, Wilt TJ. Benefits and Harms of the Mediterranean Diet Compared to Other Diets. VA ESP Project #09-009;2015.

This report is based on research conducted by the Evidence-based Synthesis Program (ESP) Center located at the Minneapolis VA Medical Center, Minneapolis, MN, funded by the Department of Veterans Affairs, Veterans Health Administration, Office of Research and Development, Quality Enhancement Research Initiative. The findings and conclusions in this document are those of the author(s) who are responsible for its contents; the findings and conclusions do not necessarily represent the views of the Department of Veterans Affairs or the United States government. Therefore, no statement in this article should be construed as an official position of the Department of Veterans Affairs. No investigators have any affiliations or financial involvement (eg, employment, consultancies, honoraria, stock ownership or options, expert testimony, grants or patents received or pending, or royalties) that conflict with material presented in the report.

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