Background: Diet has been reported to influence arterial blood pressure, and evidence indicates that the Mediterranean diet reduces cardiovascular mortality.
Objective: The objective was to examine whether the Mediterranean diet, as an entity, and olive oil, in particular, reduce arterial blood pressure.
Design: Arterial blood pressure and several sociodemographic, anthropometric, dietary, physical activity, and clinical variables were recorded at enrollment among participants in the Greek arm of the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) study. Of these participants, 20 343 had never received a diagnosis of hypertension and were included in an analysis in which systolic and diastolic blood pressure were regressed on the indicated possible predictors, including a 10-point score that reflects adherence to the Mediterranean diet and, alternatively, the score's individual components and olive oil.
Results: The Mediterranean diet score was significantly inversely associated with both systolic and diastolic blood pressure. Intakes of olive oil, vegetables, and fruit were significantly inversely associated with both systolic and diastolic blood pressure, whereas cereals, meat and meat products, and ethanol intake were positively associated with arterial blood pressure. Mutual adjustment between olive oil and vegetables, which are frequently consumed together, indicated that olive oil has the dominant beneficial effect on arterial blood pressure in this population.
Conclusions: Adherence to the Mediterranean diet is inversely associated with arterial blood pressure, even though a beneficial component of the Mediterranean diet score-cereal intake-is positively associated with arterial blood pressure. Olive oil intake, per se, is inversely associated with both systolic and diastolic blood pressure.