The Mediterranean diet is the traditional diet consumed by the populations living around the Mediterranean Sea. The diet consists of unprocessed and unrefined whole cereal grains, fruits, vegetables, fish, poultry, red wine, olive oil, olives and dairy including milk and yoghurt. The diet has been researched for its ability to improve the general health and protect from a number of Western lifestyle diseases including cardiovascular disease and cancer. Researchers can assess how closely a particular diet matches the traditional Mediterranean diet, by using a scoring system. After analysing the diet of the individual, a score is attributed to various foods within the diet and the overall score can then be used to judge the closeness of the diet to the traditional Mediterranean diet. The following food groups are usually analysed in respect to their ability to provide a Mediterranean diet score; 1) fruit, 2) vegetables, 3) nuts, 4) legumes, 5) whole grains, 6) fish, 7) ratio of monounsaturated to saturated fat, 8) red and processed meats, and 9) alcohol.
Researchers have used the Mediterranean diet score to assess the risk of disease. For example, in one study researchers assessed the Mediterranean diet score of a number of individuals living in the United States of America. The results of the study showed that those subjects with the highest Mediterranean diet score, indicating that their diet was closest to that of the traditional Mediterranean diet in terms of composition, had improved function in their cardiovascular system. Factors measured included left ventricular volume, stroke volume and ejection fraction. This improved function suggested the cardiovascular system of these individuals was generally healthier. A number of other studies have shown evidence that those that follow the Mediterranean diet have improved cardiovascular health when compared to those who follow a typical Western diet. Those following a typical Western diet are therefore encouraged to make dietary changes that brings their eating habits in line with those of the traditional Mediterranean diet.
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