Mediterranean: Diet the secret of longevity

Mediterranean: Diet the secret of longevity

The Mediterranean Diet became the centre of interest among the global community during the 1940s, following the now famous Seven Countries Study. The instigator and head of this study was the eminent professor Ancel Keys, “Mr Cholesterol” as he was known by Americans, since he was the first scientist to link diet to heart disease, and cholesterol levels to coronary heart disease. A classic landmark study, it lasted longer than any of its kind. It initially enrolled 12,500 people between 40 and 60 years of age. Volunteers’ health was monitored, mainly with regard to cardiovascular disease and malignancies.

Greece was included in the study on the initiative of Professor Aravanis, whose account of the first observations is highly revealing: “When I went to the USA for postgraduate studies, I soon realised the huge difference in the incidence of heart disease. I told myself that in Greece – and especially in provincial Greece – there must be a different God as far as health is concerned, who protected citizens from heart disease… I met Dr Ancel Keys a year later at an American Medical Association conference in Chicago, where it was agreed that Greece should be included in the study, as it had particular dietary characteristics that aroused interest. The study also included Italy, Holland, the former Yugoslavia – now Serbia, Finland and Japan”.

The findings of the study

The Seven Countries Study provided the scientific – and non-scientific – community with a famous term. That of the “Mediterranean diet”. A now favourite term that has been used with regard to nutrition in the endless list of over 2,000 recipes and “formularies” that have been released. And this has happened as indeed the concept of the Mediterranean diet has an objective value. This diet may have a lot of fat, but it is olive oil and not animal fat or other kinds of oils. Olive oil has particularly beneficial qualities: it does not increase cholesterol and has antioxidant properties due to its vitamin E content. The Mediterranean diet at the same time includes fruit and vegetables with plenty of fibre, a little red meat and dairy products in moderation. Wine can also be consumed wisely in the diet.

The Mediterranean Diet has been honoured and recognized by UNESCO as Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Peloponnesian cuisine is entirely consistent with the Mediterranean Diet. All Peloponnesian products have beneficial properties from the Mediterranean basin and the nutritional model is balanced, tried and tested over time, and it offers, apart from tasty enjoyment, daily protection against the dangers threatening the health of modern man.

The “French paradox”

By the term “French paradox” scientists mean a phenomenon first observed in France and then in the rest of the world. The phenomenon is as follows: people who, due to a diet rich in fats, like cheese and meat, should have presented an increase in cases of heart disease, however avoided the side-effects if they supplemented their diet with red wine in moderate amounts. After careful studies, red wine was proved to neutralize homocysteine, an amino acid responsible for a host of diseases. Lower levels of this factor have been observed in people who consumed 6 to 8 glasses of wine per week, even if their diet was not completely healthy.

Fine Peloponnesian wines constitute a safe and enjoyable addition to the daily diet.