Mediterranean diet reduces endothelial damage and improves the regenerative capacity of endothelium

Am J Clin Nutr. 2011 Feb;93(2):267-74. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.110.006866. Epub 2010 Dec 1.


Background: Endothelial dysfunction is a fundamental step in the atherosclerotic disease process. Activation or injury of the endothelium leads to a variety of inflammatory disorders, including the release of microparticles. Endothelial progenitor cells may contribute to the maintenance of the endothelium by replacing injured mature endothelial cells.

Objective: We studied the influence of dietary fat on the release of endothelial microparticles (EMPs) and endothelial progenitor cells (EPCs) in elderly subjects.

Design: Twenty healthy, elderly subjects (10 men and 10 women) consumed 3 diets following a randomized crossover design, each for 4 wk: a saturated fatty acid diet; a low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet; and a Mediterranean diet (MedDiet) enriched in monounsaturated fatty acids. We investigated total microparticles, EMPs from activated endothelial cells (activated EMPs), EMPs from apoptotic endothelial cells (apoptotic EMPs), EPCs, oxidative stress variables, and ischemic reactive hyperemia (IRH).

Results: The MedDiet led to lower total microparticle, activated EMP, and apoptotic EMP concentrations and higher EPC numbers than did the other diets (P < 0.001). We detected lower superoxide dismutase activity (P < 0.001), a higher plasma β-carotene concentration (P < 0.001), and lower urinary isoprostane and plasma nitrotyrosine concentrations after consumption of the MedDiet than after consumption of the other 2 diets (P < 0.05). Furthermore, the occurrence of IRH was higher after consumption of the MedDiet than after consumption of the other 2 diets (P < 0.05).

Conclusion: Consumption of the MedDiet induces a reduction in endothelial damage and dysfunction, which is associated with an improvement in the regenerative capacity of the endothelium, in comparison with 2 other diets.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Apoptosis
  • Atherosclerosis / blood
  • Atherosclerosis / pathology
  • Atherosclerosis / prevention & control*
  • Cell Count
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Diet, Mediterranean*
  • Dietary Fats / administration & dosage
  • Endothelial Cells / drug effects*
  • Endothelial Cells / physiology
  • Endothelium, Vascular / cytology
  • Endothelium, Vascular / drug effects*
  • Endothelium, Vascular / physiology
  • Fatty Acids, Monounsaturated / pharmacology*
  • Fatty Acids, Monounsaturated / therapeutic use
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hyperemia / prevention & control
  • Isoprostanes / urine
  • Male
  • Oxidative Stress
  • Regeneration / drug effects*
  • Stem Cells / physiology*
  • Superoxide Dismutase / blood
  • Tyrosine / analogs & derivatives
  • Tyrosine / blood
  • beta Carotene / blood


  • Dietary Fats
  • Fatty Acids, Monounsaturated
  • Isoprostanes
  • beta Carotene
  • 3-nitrotyrosine
  • Tyrosine
  • Superoxide Dismutase