Previous epidemiological and feeding studies have observed that adherence to Mediterranean diet (Med-Diet) is associated with reduced cardiovascular risk. However, the molecular mechanisms involved are not fully understood. Since atherosclerosis is nowadays considered a low-grade inflammatory disease, recent studies have explored the anti-inflammatory effects of a Med-Diet intervention on serum and cellular biomarkers related to atherosclerosis. In two sub-studies of the PREDIMED (PREvencion con DIeta MEDiterranea) trial, we analyzed the effects at 3 months of two Med-Diet interventions supplemented with either virgin olive oil (VOO) or nuts compared with a control low-fat diet (LFD). Both Med-Diets showed an anti-inflammatory effect reducing serum C-reactive protein, interleukin-6 (IL6) and endothelial and monocytary adhesion molecules and chemokines (P<0.05; all), whereas these parameters increased after the LFD intervention (P<0.05; all). In another substudy, we evaluated the long-term (1 year) effects of these interventions on vascular risk factors in 516 high-risk subjects, as well as the effect of different Med-Diet components in the reduction of these biomarkers. At 1 year, the Med-Diet groups had significant decreases in the plasma concentrations of IL6, tumor necrosis factor receptor (TNFR) 60 and TNFR80 (P<0.05), while intercellular adhesion molecule 1 (ICAM-1), TNFR60 and TNFR80 concentrations increased in the LFD group (P<0.002). In addition, those allocated in the highest tertile of VOO and vegetables consumption had a significant diminution of plasma TNFR60 concentration compared with those in tertile 1 (P<0.02). In conclusion, Med-Diet exerts an anti-inflammatory effect on cardiovascular system since it down-regulates cellular and circulating inflammatory biomarkers related to atherogenesis in subjects at high cardiovascular risk.
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