The Mediterranean diet protects against cardiovascular diseases

Iva Marasović,

In the early 60s, in the US, the fast food industry is blooming and small snack-bars are opened at every step, offering tasty hamburgers, fried potatoes… The whole nation is “crazy about” the new trend in the food industry. During this time, no one takes notice of the consequences nutrition has on health, and the health image of Americans has become worse. The psychologist Keys* notes that “seemingly healthy people are falling like dead in the streets of the United States”, the reason being the fatal consequences of cardiovascular disease (CVD). The mortality rate in the United States was exceptionally high.

Keys gathered a team of scientists from various areas in order to find the cause of that “epidemic”. He linked scientists from seven countries: the USA, Japan, Finland, the Netherlands, Italy, Greece, and Yugoslavia with the goal to compare the eating habits and generally the lifestyle of these countries. As a result, a study was carried out called the Seven Countries Study that is a pioneer in the CVD Prevention Research.

Why exactly there?

By studying the situation in other countries around the world, scientists have noted that the mortality rate due to these diseases is considerably lower in the so-called Mediterranean Basin. Namely, traditional Mediterranean cuisine is based on high input of fruits, vegetables, legumes, fish, moderate intake of meat, especially red meat and dairy products, a glass of wine after each meal and all food is seasoned with olive oil.

On the other hand, a modern and fast way of life has been a part of everyday life in developed European countries and in the United States, which has resulted in a lesser emphasis on the diet that was mainly made up of fried foods on refined oils.

What is the conclusion of The Seven Country Study and why is it important?

The Seven Countries Study is the first pioneering study to demonstrate the impact of nutrition and lifestyle on the occurrence of CVD, that the risks causing CVD are universal to the whole population around the world, and most importantly that CVD can be prevented. In this study, for the first time the term “Mediterranean diet” is used, and in this study it has been proved that the traditional way of nutrition and lifestyle in the Mediterranean area is protecting against numerous CVDs.
The situation has not changed significantly up to this day and in the world still most people die primarily from cardiovascular diseases (CVD). According to WHO data in 2015, 17.7 million people died of CVD, and this cause of death is accounting for 31% of all global causes of death. And although The Seven Country Study had many critics, it still made a big contribution to preventing CVD so many nutritionists around the world agree and recommend the Mediterranean diet as a prevention of cardiovascular diseases.


Kastorini, C. M., Panagiotakos D. B., Chrysohoou, C., Georgousopoulou, E., Pitaraki, E., Puddu, P. E., Tousoulis, D., Stefanadis, C., Pitsavos, C. (2016): Metabolic syndrome, adherence to the Mediterranean diet and 10- year cardiovascular disease incidence: The ATTICA study, Atherosclerosis 246, str. 87 – 93

Sofi, F., Cesari, F., Abbate, R., Gensini, G. F., Casini, A. (2008) Adherence to Mediterranean diet and health status: meta-analysis, BMJ 337

The Seven Coutries Study,

WHO-World Health Organization,