Public Health Nutrition

Research paper

The Middle Eastern and biblical origins of the Mediterranean diet

Elliot M Berrya1 c1, Yardena Arnonia1 and Michael Avirama2

a1 Department of Human Nutrition and Metabolism, Braun School of Public Health, Hebrew University-Hadassah Medical School, PO Box 12272, Jerusalem, 91120, Israel

a2 The Lipid Research Laboratory, Technion Rappaport Faculty of Medicine, and the Legacy – Heritage Clinical Research Institute at Rambam (LHCRIR) Maimonides Medical Center, Haifa, Israel

Abstract

Objective To place the Mediterranean diet (MedDi) in the context of the cultural history of the Middle East and emphasise the health effects of some of the biblical seven species – wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and date honey.

Design Review of the literature concerning the benefits of these foods.

Setting Middle East and Mediterranean Basin.

Subjects Mediterranean populations and clinical studies utilising the MedDi.

Results and conclusions The MedDi has been associated with lower rates of CVD, and epidemiological evidence promotes the benefits of consuming fruit and vegetables. Recommended foods for optimal health include whole grain, fish, wine, pomegranates, figs, walnuts and extra virgin olive oil. The biblical traditional diet, including the seven species and additional Mediterranean fruits, has great health advantages, especially for CVD. In addition to the diet, lifestyle adaptation that involves increasing physical activity and organised meals, together with healthy food choices, is consistent with the traditional MedDi. The MedDi is a manageable, lifestyle-friendly diet that, when fortified with its biblical antecedent attributes, may prove to be even more enjoyable and considerably healthier in combating the obesogenic environment and in decreasing the risks of the non-communicable diseases of modern life than conventional, modern dietary recommendations. The biblical seven species, together with other indigenous foods from the Middle East, are now scientifically recognised as healthy foods, and further improve the many beneficial effects of the MedDi.

(Received May 13 2011)

(Accepted September 07 2011)

(Online publication December 13 2011)

Correspondence

c1 Corresponding author: Email elliotb@ekmd.huji.ac.il

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