Background and aim: It has been suggested that overall dietary patterns and not single nutrients should be studied, since food items might have a synergistic and antagonistic effect on health. The Mediterranean diet has long been associated with lower incidence of cardiovascular disease and cancer. Therefore, we developed a diet score that incorporates the inherent characteristics of this dietary pattern.
Methods and results: We used 11 main components of the Mediterranean diet (non-refined cereals, fruits, vegetables, potatoes, legumes, olive oil, fish, red meat, poultry, full fat dairy products and alcohol). For the consumption of items presumed to be close to this pattern we assigned scores 0, 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 when a participant reported no consumption, rare, frequent, very frequent, weekly and daily, respectively. For the consumption of foods presumed to be away from this pattern we assigned the scores on a reverse scale. Especially for alcohol, we assigned score 5 for consumption of less than 300 ml/day, score 0 for consumption of more than 700 ml/day or none and scores 1-4 for consumption of 300-400, 400-500, 500-600, and 600-700 ml/day (100 ml = 12 g ethanol), respectively. Then a total score ranging from 0 to 55 was calculated. After having applied this diet score in the participants of the ATTICA study we observed a significant positive association with monounsaturated fat and monounsaturated-to-saturated fat intake. We also observed, an inverse association with serum lipids, blood pressures, inflammation and coagulation markers related to cardiovascular disease. The application of that score in a case-control study (CARDIO2000) suggested that the score was inversely associated with the odds of having acute coronary syndromes.
Conclusion: The Mediterranean diet score proposed above may be useful in assessing the nutritional status of an individual and investigating the relationship of the Mediterranean diet with various health outcomes.