Mortality statistics from the WHO database covering the period 1960 to 1990 have provided intriguing evidence that something unusual has been affecting in a beneficial way the health of the Mediterranean population. In recent papers, which evaluated the evidence accumulated over the last three decades, it was concluded that the traditional Mediterranean diet meets several important criteria for a healthy diet. Direct evidence in support of the beneficial properties of the Mediterranean diet has also become available. These data were derived from three studies, which have used a diet score, devised a priori on the basis of eight desirable key features of the traditional common diet in the Mediterranean region. The conclusion of these studies is that a diet that adheres to the principles of the traditional Mediterranean one is associated with longer survival. The Greek version of the Mediterranean diet is dominated by the consumption of olive oil and by high consumption of vegetables and fruits. Antioxidants represent a common element in these foods and an antioxidant action provides a plausible explanation for the apparent benefits. Wild edible greens frequently eaten in rural Greece in the form of salads and pies contain very high quantities of flavonoids — considerably higher than those found in red wine or black tea. While there is no direct evidence that these antioxidants are central to the benefits of the Mediterranean Diet, indirect evidence from epidemiological data and the increasing understanding of their mechanisms of action suggest that antioxidants may play a major role.
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