The Mediterranean diet is a modern nutritional recommendation originally inspired by the dietary patterns of Greece, Southern Italy, and Spain in the 1940s and 1950s. The principal aspects of this diet include proportionally high consumption of olive oil, legumes, unrefined cereals, fruits, and vegetables, moderate to high consumption of fish, moderate consumption of dairy products (mostly as cheese and yogurt), moderate wine consumption, and low consumption of non-fish meat products. The diet is high in vegetables, and vegetable oil, but low in trans fatty acids and saturated fats. The diet contains a lot of virgin olive oil, which is high in monounsaturated fatty acids. The ratio of saturated fatty acids to monosaturated fatty acids is low, even though the diet is relatively high in fat.
A study published in the British Medical Journal (2008;336:1348-1351 (14 June)) found that adherence to the Mediterranean Diet can protect from the development of diabetes. The subjects of the study were 13,000 former college students, average age 38 and no history of diabetes. For a period of four years, the researchers kept track of the subjects’ diets and general health. Those who strictly kept to the Mediterranean diet had a reduced chance of developing diabetes. The protective effect of the diet even extended to people with risk factors like family history of diabetes and smoking.