In the early 60s, data from the Seven Countries Study demonstrated that diet was a key risk factor for cardiovascular disease (CVD). Several epidemiological studies have since then provided further support to this concept by demonstrating that adherence to a Mediterranean food pattern was associated with a reduction in total and CVD mortality. The mechanisms underlying the cardioprotective effects of the Mediterranean diet (MEDdiet) remain unclear. Our objective was to provide an overview of how a Mediterranean food pattern modulates traditional and non-traditional risk factors for CVD. Data reviewed herein indicated that the MEDdiet may beneficially alter total cholesterol, LDL-C and TG levels, although this has not been a consistent finding. However, the impact of the MEDdiet on non-traditional risk factors such as a lower plasma apolipoprotein B concentrations, a lower high-sensitivity C-reactive protein and interleukin-6 levels, and a better endothelial function appears to be more consistent. In conclusion, adherence to a MEDdiet has been almost unequivocally associated with a decrease in mortality and this may be largely attributable to the more consistent impact of this food pattern on non-traditional risk factors for CVD rather than on traditional risk factors.
Keywords: Mediterranean diet, cardiovascular disease, blood lipid profile, oxidation, inflammation, endothelial dysfunction
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