The Mediterranean Diet has received attention because of its potential for protecting the body against cardiovascular disease and cancers. The diet is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and sources of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids.
A trial involving this diet was conducted as part of the Lyon Diet Heart Study. 605 patients with coronary heart disease who had already had a heart attack were randomly selected to follow either a Mediterranean-type diet or a control diet (Hakim, 1998). Those following the Mediterranean pattern ate less delicatessen food, beef, pork, butter and cream and more vegetable oils, vegetable oil margarine-type spreads, and olive oil. The control diet was 30% energy from fat. Compared with the control diet, the Mediterranean diet provided more fiber, vitamin C and omega-3 fatty acids both from fish and as α-linolenic acid from walnuts, seeds, and herbs and less cholesterol and saturated fatty acids. Participants were monitored for 4 years, and at the end there was a 50% to 75% reduction in risk for another heart attack. The risk ratios were also lower for cancers, and overall mortality rates. More use of these strategies in dietary planning may be beneficial in U.S. populations when combined with adequate daily physical activity.