Olive oil & the Mediterranean Diet: a recipe for longevity

The Mediterranean Diet and the traditional Cretan diet are considered to be one and the same. The term “Mediterranean Diet” was introduced by the Oldways organization of the University of Harvard, which established olive oil as the Diet’s most crucial component.

Olive oil is the heart of the Mediterranean Diet, since it is one of the most integral elements of the Mediterranean food pyramid.

In recent years, scientific and medical research has concluded that this Diet constitutes the best recipe for longevity and is becoming increasingly recognized for its positive health effects.

The Seven Countries Study was conceived by Ancel Keys in the late 1950s, included seven countries (Italy, former Yugoslavia, the Netherlands, the USA, Greece, Finland, and Japan), and involved 13,000 people aged 40-59 for over 15 years. Its findings greatly impressed the international scientific community, since Keys proved that Cretans who consumed excessive amounts of olive oil were the healthiest people on the planet. The population of Crete was found to enjoy the lowest mortality and greatest longevity rates, and the island was declared to occupy first place in terms of longevity and the health of its residents, considering both cardiovascular and malignant diseases. Scientists, in their attempt to discover the reason behind this phenomenon, concluded that it was in fact the olive oil and its daily consumption that provided Cretans with these benefits.

The Lyon Diet Heart Study, directed by Serge Renaud, was designed to compare the Mediterranean Diet with the western diet and examine whether it could reduce the risk of death after a myocardial infarction.

More specifically, the study divided its participants into two groups of patients suffering from heart disease, each one of which followed one of the two diets. One group was instructed to follow the Mediterranean Diet, while the other group was instructed to follow diets recommended by the American Heart Association.

The results of the study revealed a dramatically positive progress of the health of patients who followed the Mediterranean Diet.

In conclusion, Serge Renaud, a famous French researcher and pioneering organizer of the Lyon Study, stated in an article published in The Lancet entitled “from French paradox to Cretan miracle”: Don’t look for a pill that can substitute for the Cretan diet. There is no such thing.

The PREDIMED Study is a large-scale primary prevention study that evaluated the benefits of three healthy diets (low-fat diet, Mediterranean Diet rich in olive oil, and Mediterranean Diet rich in fruit) in the progress of cardiovascular disease. The outcome of the study demonstrated that the adoption of the Mediterranean Diet is associated with a decrease of the risk factors for said disease. The results of the group that adopted the Mediterranean Diet compared to the low-fat group were spectacular. More specifically, their BMI, total cholesterol, HDL, LDL, triglycerides, insulin, and blood glucose showed a remarkable decrease.

It was therefore concluded that the adoption of the Mediterranean Diet is associated with the reduction of hypertension, diabetes, and obesity.