Cretan diet and nutrition

Cretan diet and nutrition

Great discussion has been taking place for years in the international scientific community towards establishing the ideal diet for the promotion of health and the prevention of diseases.

Since antiquity the Cretan diet and nutrition seems to gather those characteristics that render it exquisite, as it has been shown by the Seven Countries' study which began in 1960 and continues up to now. The survey involved the long term observation of 14,000 men aged 40-45 years from seven countries and included a group of approximately 700 men from rural areas of Crete. It was established that the afore-mentioned cretan group, in comparison to groups of people from other developed countries, had the fewest deaths from heart attacks and several types of cancer. The population of Crete was the most long-lived of all other countries it was compared to. Significant was the fact that in 1991, when the section of the Social Medicine of the University of Crete undertook the reexamination of the elder people during the 31st year of the study, the survivors in Crete amounted in approximately the half number of the initial population, whereas in Finland there were not any survivors! 

The optimal health and longevity of the Cretans is attributed to their traditional nutrition. That nutrition was quite simple and included mainly olive oil, that constituted approximately one third of the daily calories intake of each individual, whereas the biggest part of the energy came from cereals, bread, legumes, vegetables, fruits and sometimes from small quantities of eggs, cheese, milk, meat, fish and some red wine in every meal. According to the survey, the Cretans were the healthiest of all participants. It is noted that all today's survivors are Cretans, who are in the tenth decade of their life.


Olive oil, unlike vegetable oils, is rich in monounsaturated fat acids, which are resistant to oxidation, and reduce the LDL cholesterol without effecting the HDL cholesterol (which protects from atherosclerosis). Moreover, olive oil comprises important quantities of antioxidant substances, such as tocopherols and hydroxyphenyl that protect the organism not only from atherosclerosis but from several types of cancer as well, by capturing free toxic radicals. Olive oil has been shown to be a shield for the heart !

This simple but well evidenced truth about Crete and its food culture - particularly the consumption of olive oil - is referred to as 'the miracle of Cretan diet and nutrition'.

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