Microbiota and Mediterranean Diet

Microbiota and Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean Diet is considered one of the healthiest eating patterns. Scientific data show that adherence to the Mediterranean Diet favors a the incidence reduction of various diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular and metabolic syndromes, neurodegenerative diseases, diabetes type 2 and allergies of various kinds.

The beneficial effect of the Mediterranean Diet is due to the synerge effect of nutrients more than merely to the effect of the individual. The Mediterranean dietary pattern is characterized by consumption of cereals, preferably whole grain, legumes, nuts, fruit and vegetables, white meat and blue fish. Extra vergine d'oliva is a predominant source of unsaturated fats. The Mediterranean Diet foresees local and traditional products consumptions, with respect for the seasonality and substances biodiversity. The Mediterranean dietary model also provides for regular physical activity to maintain physical and mental health, as well as high water consumption.

Mediterranean traditional foods are considered "functional" foods with positive effects on health and well-being. Fruits, vegetables and nuts are the main source of fibers and phytochemical substances such as flavonoids, phytosterols, vitamins, terpenes, phenols that give us protection against oxidative processes contributing to the production of free radicals, harmful to our DNA. The oleic acid contained in olio d'oliva and phytosterols have an anti-inflammatory activity, as well as cholesterol reduction. In addition, olio d'oliva has high levels of monounsaturated fatty acids with a cardiovascular protective effect. The foods of the Mediterranean Diet can be considered "alicamenti", that is rich in beneficial nutrients with antitumor potential.

The whole grains typical Mediterranean culture food are substances with a low glycemic index and are associated with a low risk of developing diabetes, in particular diabetes type 2, coronary heart disease and cancer. Another very important aspect of the Mediterranean Diet is the low sodium content; highly salt intake increases the risk of stomach cancer and mortality from cardiovascular diseases.

It is known that microbiota is also called by scientific experts a “superorganism": this is a result of a genetic inheritance and a microbial complexity combination. When the microbiota homeostasis doesn’t work, we have so called dysbiosis state. In recent years it has been coming up to light the theory that gut microflora alteration represents the prelude to various pathologies such as hepatic steatosis, metabolic syndrome, inflammatory bowel diseases. In particular, eating habits can affect on gut microbiota heterogeneity and dietary components can influence both the microbial composition and their metabolic activity, already since the first days of life. The products of Mediterranean Diet promote Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli proliferation, reducing Clostridia population.

Recent studies have shown that the Mediterranean Diet is beneficial for the prevention and treatment of obesity; microbiota regulation is fundamental for the prevention of metabolic syndromes.

Did you know that?

  • The Mediterranean Diet has been defined as "intangible heritage" of humanity by UNESCO in 2010?
  • The new transcultural food pyramid drafted by the Italian Society of Pediatrics in 2015 foresees different types of cereal intake, therefore no longer only wheat grain, but also pseudo-cereals such as quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat, nutritional noble substances.


  1. Patricia Lopez-Legarrea et al. The influence of Mediterranean, carbohydrate and high protein diets on gut microbiota composition in the treatment of obesity and associated inflammatory state. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr 2014; 23(3): 360-368.
  2. Federica Del Chierico et al. Mediterranean diet and health; food effects on gut microbiota and disease control. Int J of Mol Sci. 2014. 15, 11678-11699.
  3. De Filippis et al. High-level adherence to a Mediterranean diet beneficially impacts the gut microbiota and associated metabolome. Gut. 2016 Nov;65(11):1812-1821. doi: 10.1136/gutjnl-2015-309957. Epub 2015 Sep 28. PubMed PMID: 26416813.

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