While epidemiological research on the protective role of the Mediterranean diet (MD) is highly publicised, little is known about MD education interventions. This exploratory study aimed to provide insight into methodology and effectiveness of the MD as a nutrition education and health promotion tool.
Two searches were conducted within PubMed using the terms ‘Mediterranean diet’ and ‘Education’ or ‘Intervention’. Abstracts yielded were screened for distinct studies in which participants were instructed on the application of MD principles in their diet. Four studies met this criterion. These were further analysed for sample/target population, and intervention design, duration, tools, evaluative measures/tests and outcomes.
Interventions targeted both healthy and at-risk populations and lasted between 12 weeks to 1 year, including follow-up. They used individual counselling, tailored computer-based counselling, group education, internet-based education, cookery classes and printed materials. Outcomes were measured using food diaries, FFQ, questionnaires on psychosocial factors and on usage of the educational tools, as well as anthropometrics and biomarkers. Interventions showed statistically significant increases in participants’ intake of vegetables, legumes, nuts, fruit, whole grains, seeds, olive oil and dietary PUFA and MUFA, and statistically significant decreases in total cholesterol, ox-LDL-cholesterol, total:HDL-cholesterol ratio, insulin resistance, BMI, body weight and waist circumference.
MD education interventions may be cost-effective strategies for helping to protect against and treat a variety of health problems in different populations. Details of such interventions need to be publicised internationally. This introductory review could help inform the design of future targeted MD nutrition education.
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