Mediterranean diet of Crete: foods and nutrient content.
Kafatos A., Verhagen H., Moschandreas J., Apostolaki I., Van Westerop JJ.
OBJECTIVES: To describe the traditional diet of Crete and evaluate the nutrient composition of 3 types of diet common in Crete by means of chemical analyses of composite food samples. To compare results with dietary analyses from a nutrient database developed at the University of Crete, Greece. DESIGN: Three composite diet samples were obtained based on 7-day weighed food records representing the traditional Cretan Mediterranean diet (diet A), typical diet of present-day Greek adolescents (diet B), and fasting diet of the Eastern Orthodox church (diet C). Analyses were performed chemically and using a nutrient database. RESULTS: Chemical analyses provided a definitive measure, for the first time, of the nutrient composition of the complete Greek diet as it was in the early 1960s. In comparing chemical analyses with nutrient database analyses, differences greater than 15% of the analyzed value were found in all 3 diets for cholesterol and some vitamins. The differences between analyzed and calculated values in total fat and saturated fat content were less than 15% in all diets. APPLICATIONS/CONCLUSIONS: The present study provides 2 practical examples of the Mediterranean diet, which although widely publicized has rarely been analyzed chemically. Diet A has been shown to be related to the lowest rates for coronary heart disease and cancer mortality compared with the diets of the other populations of the Seven Countries study. As such, it could be recommended for health promotion and prevention of disease. Diet C contains even lower amounts of saturated fatty acids and would be excellent for patients with hypercholesterolemia. The high antioxidants in diet C probably maintain very low levels of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol. Dietary analyses of the Greek diet could be based on an operational database such as ours if further chemical analyses are performed on specific foods. These would result in improved precision of the database and possible extension into national food composition tables and a national dietary database.