Thursday, April 1, 2010

What is a Mediterranean Diet?

Eating according to what has been labelled the Mediterranean diet is associated with a significant improvement in health. However, it is unclear what this diet really contains. In a recent paper published in Public Health Nutrition, Elling Bere of the University of Agder in Kristiansand, Norway, and myself discuss the contents of the ‘scientific’ Mediterranean diet, i.e. the contents as we found in studies that claim to have found supporting evidence for the health enhancing properties of the Med diet. Based on this analysis we show and argue that the evidence of the health-enhancing properties of the Mediterranean diet is not necessarily based on Mediterranean foods. The results indicate that we do not have to eat Mediterranean foods to enjoy the health-promoting properties of the diet it represents. To maintain dietary variety, cultural diversity and heritage, as well as for environmental reasons, it seems more appropriate to promote regionally appropriate diets throughout the world – rather than a global Mediterranean diet. In an earlier paper that we published we provided some evidence that a ‘Nordic Diet’, i.e. a diet based on foods originating in the Nordic countries, may have similar health promoting properties as a Med diet.