Background: Within the framework of the multi-centre AIRGENE project we studied the association of the Mediterranean diet on plasma levels of various inflammatory markers, in myocardial infarction (MI) survivors from six geographic areas in Europe.
Methods: From 2003 to 2004, 1003 patients were repeatedly clinically examined. On every clinical visit (on average 5.8 times), blood EDTA-plasma samples were collected. High sensitivity C-reactive protein (CRP), interleukin (IL)-6 and fibrinogen concentrations were measured based on standardized procedures. Dietary habits were evaluated through a semi-quantitative Food Frequency Questionnaire (FFQ), whereas adherence to the Mediterranean diet was assessed by a diet score.
Results: A protective effect of adherence to the Mediterranean diet was found. For each unit of increasing adherence to the Mediterranean diet score there was a reduction of 3.1% in the average CRP levels (95% CI 0.5-5.7%) and of 1.9% in the average IL-6 levels (95% CI 0.5-3.4%) after adjusting for centre, age, sex, body mass index, physical activity, smoking status, diabetes and medication intake. No significant association was observed between the diet score and fibrinogen levels. Moderate intake of red wine (1-12 wine glasses per month) was associated with lower levels of CRP, IL-6 and fibrinogen.
Conclusions: Adherence to the traditional Mediterranean diet was associated with a reduction of the concentrations of inflammatory markers in MI survivors. This may, in part, explain the beneficial effects of this diet on various chronic diseases such as atherosclerosis and cancer, and expands its role to secondary prevention level.