The Mediterranean diet and health: a comprehensive overview

J Intern Med. 2021 Sep;290(3):549-566. doi: 10.1111/joim.13333. Epub 2021 Aug 23.


The Mediterranean diet (MedDiet), one of the most studied and well-known dietary patterns worldwide, has been associated with a wide range of benefits for health. In the present narrative review, we aimed to provide a comprehensive overview of the current knowledge on the relation of the MedDiet to important health outcomes, considering both observational and intervention studies with both risk factors and clinical diseases as outcomes. In addition, we considered the clinical and public health impacts of the MedDiet on both human and planetary health. Earlier research confirmed by recent studies has provided strong evidence for the benefits of the MedDiet on cardiovascular health, including reduction in the incidence of cardiovascular outcomes as well as risk factors including obesity, hypertension, metabolic syndrome, and dyslipidaemia. There is also evidence that MedDiet is associated with lower rates of incident diabetes, and better glycaemic control in diabetic patients compared to control diets. In prospective studies, adherence to the MedDiet reduced mortality, especially cardiovascular mortality, hence increased longevity. In addition, it has been associated with less age-related cognitive dysfunction and lower incidence of neurodegenerative disorders, particularly Alzheimer's disease. Furthermore, the relatively low environmental impacts (water, nitrogen and carbon footprint) of the MedDiet is an additional positive aspect of the Mediterranean dietary model. It is likely that the combination of a healthy diet with social behaviours and the way of life of Mediterranean regions makes the MedDiet a sustainable lifestyle model that could likely be followed in other regions with country-specific and culturally appropriate variations.

Keywords: cancer; cardiovascular disease; chronic diseases; health; mediterranean diet; neurodegenerative diseases.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cardiovascular Diseases* / epidemiology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases* / prevention & control
  • Diabetes Mellitus* / diet therapy
  • Diet, Mediterranean*
  • Humans
  • Metabolic Syndrome* / epidemiology
  • Metabolic Syndrome* / prevention & control
  • Obesity
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors