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Open Access Highly Accessed Research

Mediterranean Diet Effect: an Italian picture

Elena Azzini*, Angela Polito, Alessandro Fumagalli, Federica Intorre, Eugenia Venneria, Alessandra Durazzo, Maria Zaccaria, Donatella Ciarapica, Maria S Foddai, Beatrice Mauro, Anna Raguzzini, Lara Palomba and Giuseppe Maiani

Author Affiliations

National Institute for Food and Nutrition Research, Via Ardeatina 546, 00178 Rome, Italy

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Nutrition Journal 2011, 10:125  doi:10.1186/1475-2891-10-125

Published: 16 November 2011

Abstract

Background

The purpose of this study was to evaluate the overall diet quality effects, mainly on antioxidant nutritional status and some cytokines related to the cellular immune response as well as oxidative stress in a healthy Italian population group.

Methods

An observational study was conducted on 131 healthy free-living subjects. Dietary intake was assessed by dietary diary. Standardised procedures were used to make anthropometric measurements. On blood samples (serum, plasma and whole blood) were evaluated: antioxidant status by vitamin A, vitamin E, carotenoids, vitamin C, uric acid, SH groups, SOD and GPx activities; lipid blood profile by total cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, triglycerides; total antioxidant capacity by FRAP and TRAP; the immune status by TNF-α, and IL-10 cytokines; the levels of malondialdehyde in the erythrocytes as marker of lipid peroxidation.

Results

The daily macronutrients intake (g/day) have shown a high lipids consumption and significant differences between the sexes with regard to daily micronutrients intake. On total sample mean Mediterranean Diet Score (MDS) was 4.5 ± 1.6 and no significant differences between the sexes were present. A greater adherence to a Mediterranean dietary pattern increases the circulating plasma levels of carotenoids (lutein plus zeaxanthin, cryptoxanthin, α and β-carotene), vitamin A and vitamin E. The levels of endogenous antioxidants were also improved. We observed higher levels in anti-inflammatory effect cytokines (IL-10) in subjects with MDS ≥ 6, by contrast, subjects with MDS ≤ 3 show higher levels in sense of proinflammatory (TNF α P < 0.05). Lower levels of MDA were associated with MDS > 4. Our data suggest a protective role of vitamin A against chronic inflammatory conditions especially in subjects with the highest adherence to the Mediterranean-type dietary pattern.

Conclusions

Mediterranean dietary pattern is associated with significant amelioration of multiple risk factors, including a better cardiovascular risk profile, reduced oxidative stress and modulation of inflammation.

Keywords:
overall diet quality; oxidative stress; markers of inflammation; Mediterranean dietary pattern