Diet is associated with the development of CHD. The incidence of CHD is lower in southern European countries than in northern European countries and it has been proposed that this difference may be a result of diet. The traditional Mediterranean diet emphasises a high intake of fruits, vegetables, bread, other forms of cereals, potatoes, beans, nuts and seeds. It includes olive oil as a major fat source and dairy products, fish and poultry are consumed in low to moderate amounts. Many observational studies have shown that the Mediterranean diet is associated with reduced risk of CHD, and this result has been confirmed by meta-analysis, while a single randomised controlled trial, the Lyon Diet Heart study, has shown a reduction in CHD risk in subjects following the Mediterranean diet in the secondary prevention setting. However, it is uncertain whether the benefits of the Mediterranean diet are transferable to other non-Mediterranean populations and whether the effects of the Mediterranean diet will still be feasible in light of the changes in pharmacological therapy seen in patients with CHD since the Lyon Diet Heart study was conducted. Further randomised controlled trials are required and if the risk-reducing effect is confirmed then the best methods to effectively deliver this public health message worldwide need to be considered.
(Online publication December 15 2009)