The science behind the Mediterranean diet

The diet calls for lots of fruits and vegetables.

Researchers, physicians, and health care providers from across the United States and Italy met recently at the Rollins School of Public Health for the first Emory Conference on Mediterranean Diet and Health. Participants focused on the diet’s relation to cardiovascular disease, cancer, neuropsychiatric disorders, and vascular health.

The Mediterranean diet is characterized by a high consumption of fruits, vegetables, legumes, complex carbohydrates, and nuts; moderate consumption of fish and red wine; low consumption of cheese and red meat; and olive oil as the chief source of fat, explains Viola Vaccarino, MD, PhD, one of the conference chairs.

When topped with exercise, the Mediterranean diet really a pattern of eating habits traditionally followed by people in the Mediterranean regions in the early 1960shas proven beneficial for many throughout the years. But why this is so isnt clear.

Vaccarino says recent changes in nutritional epidemiology have meant researchers are moving away from focusing on individual nutrients to evaluating the entire diet. Instead, theyre looking at how a global nutritional profile could be associated with better health.

Yet, thanks to new technology and the subsequent availability of new data, our take on nutrition is evolving and will continue to do so, says Dean Jones, PhD, Emory professor of medicine, pulmonary division. “We are facing a dramatic change in all aspects of health care in medicine with the completion of the human genome and the availability of new technologies, which allow us to get more and more detailed information on individuals.

This wealth of information, says Jones, will transform the way everything is done with regard to nutrition including the interpretation and study of the Mediterranean diet, as well as the risk factors of chronic disease.

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