Public Health Nutrition

Articles

The Mediterranean diet as a nutrition education, health promotion and disease prevention tool

Suzanne Piscopoa1 c1

a1 Nutrition, Family and Consumer Studies Office, Faculty of Education, University of Malta, Msida, MSD2080, Malta

Abstract

Objective 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.

Design and setting 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.

Results 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.

Conclusions 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.

(Received January 01 2009)

(Accepted May 01 2009)

Correspondence

c1 Corresponding author: Email suzanne.piscopo@um.edu.mt

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